According to the United Nations Secretary General, 2021 is "the year that will make or break climate action."
Although 2021 is still far away, a preliminary report on the current state of the planet indicates that we are inclining towards its destruction.
Experts from the UN's World Meteorological Organization, (WMO), recently determined that the past seven years were the warmest ever recorded.
Although we only have data for nine months of 2021 so far, the initial analysis suggests that it will be either the fifth, sixth or seventh most warm year.
It won't get warmer because it was cooler earlier in the year when La Nia started cooling.
However, the trend has been clear since 2015. In seven years there has been an accelerated and long-term increase in global temperatures, sea levels rise, ocean temperature, and acidification.
The current rate of greenhouse gas emission is estimated to cause the world to heat by 1.5-2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
The global average temperature for January through September 2021 was 1.09 C higher than the pre-industrial average. This means that there is not much room for error.
"We are still substantially behind schedule to meet the Paris Agreement goals. In a preface to the report, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, stated that fossil fuel emissions have rebounded this year, while greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, and severe human-enhanced climate events have affected the lives, livelihoods, and health of every continent.
"Unless there is immediate, large-scale, and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emission emissions, limiting global warming to 1.5 C won't be possible. This will have catastrophic consequences for the planet and people who depend on it."
This report was published at the beginning of UN Climate Change negotiations currently taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. Known simply as COP26, the conference will determine how the world moves in this crucial moment. It's vital that we understand where we are at.
The WMO report is a landmark scientific document and the snapshot it provides is alarming at every level.
The report shows that the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases reached new heights in 2020, despite the temporary halt to emissions from a pandemic. Carbon dioxide had increased by 150 percent from pre-industrial levels. Methane had increased 2621%, and nitrous oxide had increased 123 percent.
According to climate data, this year's La Nia event saw a slight dip. However, this year appears much warmer than the 2011 La Nia event.
It's not surprising that the sea ice in East Greenland Sea fell to a record low due to rising global temperatures. It's still shocking.
Researchers recorded the first ever rainfall at the Greenland Ice Sheet's summit in August. It lasted hours. This summit rarely receives snow.
The ocean is worse. With each passing day, acidification, sea level rise, and warming are all steadily increasing.
The report revealed that ocean acidification has not been at this level since at least 26,000 year ago. It's also affecting the ocean's ability store carbon dioxide from within the atmosphere. This makes the climate crisis even more severe.
Guterres warns that ecosystems and communities all over the world are being destroyed, from the ocean bottoms to the mountain tops, melting glaciers to constant extreme weather events.
"COP26 must represent a turning point for the planet and people."
The world has seen many wildfires, severe heat waves, cyclones and hurricanes over the past nine months. There have also been droughts and other extreme weather events.
The monsoon rains in Bangladesh were so severe this summer that many refugee camps were flooded. This displaced more than 25,000 people who had lost their homes previously.
We have to give back more
Recent research indicates that climate change will only increase extreme weather events such as these.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of WMO, recalls that "Months' worth" of rain fell in China in a matter of hours. Some parts of Europe also experienced severe flooding. This led to many casualties and economic losses in excess of billions of dollars.
"Sub-tropical South America's second consecutive year of drought caused a reduction in the flow of powerful river basins, which impacted agriculture, transport, and energy production. Extreme events are now the norm.
Taalas believes that nations need to not only reduce their emissions but also plan for the future. He says that climate adaptation investment is the best way to protect lives and livelihoods from future extreme weather events.
Taalas continues, "Throughout the pandemic, we have heard that it is important to build back better in order to put humanity on a more sustainable track and to avoid the worst effects of climate change on societies and economies."
"This report shows that in 2021, we are not moving in the right direction."
Let's hope that leaders at COP26 will turn this ship around.
You can easily access the WMO provisional reports by using a story map.