Arctic Wildfires Isn't Just a Cool Band Name
Image by Daryl Pederson/Getty Images
On top of the many and numerous challenges thrown our way this year, it turns out that 2020 (yes, the purveyor of WW3 memes, COVID, and the aptly named “murder hornets”) was also tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record. In addition, 2020 was a record year for climate catastrophes in the US. However, these catastrophes weren’t just limited to the U.S., 2020 was a record year for arctic wildfires (yes, arctic wildfires) and tropical storms in the Atlantic. This past year US citizens were forced to contend with 22 climate-driven natural disasters (with the past record having been 16). These disasters totaled approximately $96 billion in damage and killed approximately 262 people. The western United States saw its most active wildfire year on record, with California alone having five of its biggest wildfires in history. The eastern United States and the Gulf of Mexico encountered 12 tropical storms in 2020, with seven of them causing more than $1 billion in damage. The Arctic and northern Siberia encountered record wildfires in 2020 due to temperatures being 3-6°C hotter than average. In fact, in June of 2020, the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk reached the hottest temperature ever recorded north of the arctic circle, a confounding 101.4°F. And while fossil fuel burning was reduced this year due to COVID-19 lockdowns, 2020 was still the hottest year on record (tied with 2016), with the average surface temperature being 1.25°C hotter than during the pre-industrial period. If that doesn’t sound particularly dangerous, here’s a bit of context. In 2018 the UN warned that to mitigate the damage caused by climate change, the average global temperature should not rise higher than 1.5 °C above what it was during the pre-industrial period. We are dangerously close to that maximum temperature, and as trends continue to show us, the Earth is only getting hotter. While it’s easy to blame 2020 for everything that’s happened this year, it’s not actually 2020’s fault. This record year for climate change is caused by people still not taking the fight to save the environment seriously. So what can be done to make them take it seriously? You can protest in the streets, share statistics on social media, and educate those around you that are uneducated on the climate crisis. We can teach people to be environmentalists because even the smallest changes can have a big positive impact on the environment. The little things like picking up trash you see on the ground, making sure you don’t leave the water running or the lights on, or even taking a walk down to the corner store instead of driving, are all easy, little things that can be done to take a step toward saving our future.
- Walter Einhart, TeensForNature Head Editor
“22 Disasters, 262 Dead, $95bn in Damages: US Saw Record Year for Climate-Driven Catastrophes.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Jan. 2021, www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/08/us-2020-record-year-climate-disasters-wildfires-hurricanes.
Carrington, Damian. “Climate Crisis: 2020 Was Joint Hottest Year Ever Recorded.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Jan. 2021, www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/08/climate-crisis-experts-2020-joint-hottest-year-ever-recorded.
“Greenhouse Gas Emissions Transforming the Arctic into 'an Entirely Different Climate'.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Dec. 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/08/arctic-report-climate-crisis-wildfires-ice-loss.
Watts, Jonathan. “We Have 12 Years to Limit Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Oct. 2018, www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report.