Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

2020: One of the Hottest Years Ever

2020 tied 2016 as one of the hottest years ever, with average temperature 1.25°C above the pre-industrial average. To avoid catastrophe, the environmental struggle must be anti-capitalist.

Otto Fors

January 12, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share
Overhead image of a wildfire burning in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk region
Image: Reuters/Julia Petrenko

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) has revealed that global average temperatures in 2020 reached record heights: last year tied with 2016 as the hottest on record. The global average temperature was 0.6°C above the standard reference period of 1981-2010 and 1.25°C above the pre-industrial average. This is the sixth year since 2015 of exceptionally hot weather. 

“It is no surprise that the last decade was the warmest on record,” said C3S Director Carlo Buontempo. “[it] is yet another reminder of the urgency of ambitious emissions reductions to prevent adverse climate impacts in the future.” 

The largest annual temperature deviation from the standard reference period was seen in the Arctic and Northern Siberia. An exceptionally warm year in these regions culminated in temperatures more than 6°C above the average and saw ice sheets melt to a record-breaking low. The wildfire season was also unusually active in this region, with fires first detected in May and continuing well into autumn. These fires released a record 244 megatons of carbon dioxide, exceeding the 2019 record by nearly 35 percent. Australia and the U.S. West Coast also experienced unprecedented wildfires, adding to these staggering emissions. 

You might be interested in: Biden’s Climate Plan Is a Catastrophe in the Making

Carbon emissions dipped in 2020 due to the global economic shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic. But this temporary drop amounted to just 7 percent — 10 percent in the United States — and may have been offset by the massive wildfires. Carbon dioxide concentrations continued to increase at a rate of 2.3 parts per million (ppm) per year according to the C3S, peaking at 413 ppm in May 2020. 

“While carbon dioxide concentrations have risen slightly less in 2020 than in 2019, this is no cause for complacency,” reported Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. “Until global net emissions are reduced to zero, CO2 will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere and drive further climate change,” he warned.

A system where finite resources are privately owned, exploited, and exchanged for the sole purpose of enriching a wealthy minority will never be able to tackle climate change. And the minuscule temporary drop associated with the coronavirus demonstrates that individual responsibility is wholly insufficient for halting our disastrous trajectory. 

Capitalist governments across the world have not just ignored this emergency — they have actively exacerbated it. To avoid catastrophe, the environmental struggle must be anti-capitalist, and the solution is a democratically-run economy structured around human need and environmental sustainability rather than profit.

Adapted and expanded from an article first published in Spanish on January 8 in La Izquierda Diario.

Translation: Otto Fors

Facebook Twitter Share

Otto Fors

Otto is a PhD student and lecturer in New York.

Ideas & Debates

On the left, Ruth Fischer, former German communist party leader. On the right, the cover of her biography by Mario Keßler.

Ruth Fischer: The Ongoing Fascination of the Ultra-left

Ruth Fischer was the chairwoman of the Communist Party of Germany in the mid-1920s, before she became a supporter of McCarthy. Her ultra-left policies continue to provoke discussions among socialists. A massive biography by Mario Keßler offers some lessons for revolutionary strategy today.

Nathaniel Flakin

July 3, 2022
A Swiss Trotskyist group marching in the 1950s

The Strange Story of Trotskyism in the Alps

A new book in German tells the story of the Trotskyist movement in Switzerland from 1945 to 1968. It includes the strangest case of infiltration since the founding of the Fourth International.

Nathaniel Flakin

June 23, 2022
Three students marching in front of a sign that reads "On Strike for Mental Health supports"

When It Comes to Gun Violence, Mental Health Matters and the Left Should Fight for It

In the aftermath of the recent wave of mass shootings we need a mental health overhaul and it’s the Left that needs to fight for it.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

June 13, 2022
A graphic image of a landscape with silhouettes of animals and a tree in dark green, with a lighter green background of branches.

Recovering the Legacy of Marxism in the Face of the Ecological Crisis

Does progress require the conquest of nature? Is “humanity” responsible for the climate crisis? What is the relationship between nature and capitalist society? In Marx’s Ecology — newly translated into Spanish for Ediciones IPS — John Bellamy Foster overturns conventional interpretations of Marx and instead offers a rational approach to the environmental crisis. This article presents the prologue to the new Spanish-language edition.

Juan Duarte

June 5, 2022

MOST RECENT

Western Imperialism Expands with New Military Bases and NATO Members

The NATO summit in Madrid has expanded the alliance’s footprint — a result of the U.S. and European role in the Ukraine war, and a big win for Western imperialism. Workers must use our power to fight the U.S. and NATO agenda, without giving any support to the Putin regime.

Sam Carliner

July 1, 2022

The Court is Trying To Kill You: SCOTUS Bolsters Climate Change

The Supreme Court just gutted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s power to regulate emissions. It’s time for the climate movement to stand up and fight back against the capitalist institutions that are killing the planet.

Sam Carliner

June 30, 2022

Urgent Call to Action: Our Unions Must Defend the Right to Abortion

The Rank-and-File Caucus of the Temple Association of University Professionals issued a statement against the Supreme Court's attack on abortion and for the need for unions to mobilize to protect the right to an abortion in the streets and in our workplaces.

RAFT Temple

June 30, 2022

Over 50 Migrants Found Dead in Texas. Biden Has Blood on His Hands.

The Biden Administration has maintained virtually all of Trump’s draconian and murderous immigration policies. Dozens have died in a trailer in Texas as a result.

Robert Belano

June 29, 2022