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Data: NASA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

With a moderate La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, global temperatures in 2021 are running decidedly cooler when compared to recent years.

Why it matters: The lack of a new warmest year record in 2021 could sap some of the sense of urgency among policymakers in the U.S. and abroad during a critical year for enacting stricter emissions cuts to meet the Paris Agreement's targets.

The big picture: According to NASA, March was the coldest such month globally since 2014. New information from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a European agency, shows that April was also relatively cool, coming in as the seventh-warmest such month since 1979.

  • Europe was hit especially hard by cold snaps during April, breaking records in England and causing an agricultural disaster in France as winemakers saw their crops freeze on the vine.

Yes, but: Even with the recent cold in Europe and the cooling influence of La Niña, the planet is still headed for a top-10 or even top-5 warmest year finish, climate scientist Zeke Hausfather tells Axios. "This is well in line with the long-term warming trend."

Context: Although carbon dioxide emissions temporarily dropped last year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, that's not the reason for the slight dip in temperatures this year.

  • In fact, greenhouse gases continued to build up in the atmosphere in 2020 into 2021.

Reality check: With human-caused global warming, it's the long-term trends that matter, not single years (despite their convenient news pegs).

  • "Scientists know climate change is happening against a backdrop of natural climate variability: There will always be winters and summers, La Niñas and El Niños," NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel tells Axios.
  • "I like to use a doping analogy: When an athlete uses banned substances, she's more likely to win. But she probably won't win every single time — nor is she expected to," Marvel said.

What we're watching: With drought worsening in the West and wildfires already breaking out, this could be another year in which climate change-fueled disasters dominate headlines in the U.S., negating any effects of a slight pullback in global temperature anomalies.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Aug 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

How climate change kills the future

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

One of the hardest facts to grasp about climate change is this: No matter what we do now, it's almost certain to get worse in the future.

Why it matters: The time lag effect of climate change means that actions taken to reduce carbon emissions will only begin to noticeably bend the curve decades from now.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Beto plans Texas comeback in governor's race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Tx in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which bans effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.