Jan 14, 2022 - Energy & Environment

The most startling facts in 2021 climate report

Graph showing global temperature anomalies through 2021.
Data: NASA; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

An unsettling part of the human condition today is that the year you were born will most likely be the coolest year of your life, globally speaking.

By the numbers: Newly released climate data from NOAA, NASA and Berkeley Earth show that the planet has had an unbroken streak of 45 years of warmer than average temperatures.

  • In NASA's data set, 1988 — when climate scientist James Hansen famously warned Congress that human-caused global warming was underway — long ranked as the warmest year on record.
  • But after the warming of the past three decades, 1988 now ranks as just 28th warmest year, Gavin Schmidt, who direct's the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told Axios.

Between the lines: The world is now 1.2°C (2.2°F) warmer than preindustrial levels, Berkeley Earth found, closing in on the Paris Agreement's temperature target of limiting warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

What's next: There's a 99% chance that 2022 will be a top 10 hottest year on record (barring a major volcanic eruption, which tends to cool the climate briefly), NOAA climate scientist Russell Vose said.

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