The worst decade for the climate, what have we learned?

#environmental sustainability #nature #society

2019 was the end of a decennium horribilis for the planet's climate. The verdict of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) during COP25 was unequivocal: the warmest decade since records began (1850). The consequences of the increase in the average temperature of the Earth range from the rise in the oceans to the proliferation of extreme meteorological phenomena.

These are bad times for the planet's climate. The exponential increase in CO2 emissions as a result of human activity since the end of the 19th century has sent the earth's temperature rocketing to unimaginable levels. We are now getting dangerously close to the 2 °C threshold, and if we exceed it we will be forced to face the irreversible effects of a climate crisis unprecedented in history.


Between 2010 and 2019 it has been hotter than ever before and this isn't just an alarmist comment about the weather. If the latest climate report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) is accurate we have just endured the hottest decade since records began (1850). Never before had we seen a decade marked by such an extraordinary rise in the average temperature of the Earth, which, in 2019 was around 1.1 ºC higher than at pre-industrial levels.

The year 2019 will be remembered as one of the hottest in history — the hottest still being 2016 — and an especially sad chapter as regards the melting of the poles, with the Arctic's worst summer of the century. Other areas of the world such as Asia, South America, Africa, Europe and Oceania have also seen an increase in average temperatures, which have risen continuously, breaking records decade after decade since 1980.


The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) produced a list of the main global climate events in 2019. These are among the most significant:

 North America

Alaska broke its high temperature record and several rivers — like the Missouri and the Mississippi — burst their banks between March and July.

 Central and South America

Mexico experienced its hottest August on record and South America had its second hottest year since 1909. The region also endured hurricanes and tropical storms such as Iba.


Europe experienced several heatwaves, the one in Germany being the most worrying, and the second warmest year ever recorded.


This continent went through the third hottest year of the last century, with three cyclones in the same period with winds of over 185 km/h.


This region faced the third hottest year of all time, and produced cyclones like Idai and extreme droughts in countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.


Australia endured a year of extreme temperatures and one of the worst outbreak of fires in its history.


The rise in the average World temperature over the last decade — brought about by the high concentration in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases — has had serious consequences for the planet. The following are the greatest concern:

 The rise in the oceans and melting of the poles and glaciers

In October, the sea reached its highest level since precise measurements began in 1993. The Arctic is thawing and has been joined by the Antarctic, a process which has accelerated since 2016, particularly in 2019.

 Warming and acidification of the oceans

There were record-breaking high ocean temperatures from 2016 to 2019. This warming has increased ocean acidification by 26% since 1750, and is destroying our marine ecosystems.

 Extreme meteorological phenomena

Over the last decade droughts, floods and other climate catastrophes have intensified, causing thousands of deaths and leaving seven million people homeless in areas like Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

 Endangering health and food security

In 2019, unprecedented heatwaves affected much of the world together with a notable increase in cases of dengue fever compared to 2018. Food security has been affected in parts of Africa and Asia by drought and floods.

The evolution of average global temperature.#RRSSThe evolution of average global temperature.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The evolution of average global temperature [PDF]


The Paris Agreement about climate change in 2015 enshrined the international community's commitment — within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — to keep average global temperature increase to below 2 ºC compared to pre-industrial levels. The following measures would help to slow global warming:

  • Gradually reducing CO2 emissions: to 45% during the first decade and to zero after 2050.
  • Slowing the deforestation, endangering the planet's ecosystems and minimising the use of fossil fuels.
  • Moving towards a clean, more efficient energy model, based on the use of renewable sources.
  • Encouraging responsible consumption and reduction, reuse and recycling the fundamental 3Rs of the circular economy—.
  • Adopting a more sustainable diet — rich in fruit and vegetables — and reducing food waste.