Sometimes it’s hard to get a clear grasp on just how much the climate has changed and where we sit now, compared to the climate of the past.
With the last nine years all appearing in the top ten hottest years ever recorded, we’ve put the last 143 years into context in this heatmap to show global temperature over time.
The chart below compares every month to the average temperature of that same month throughout the 20th Century, all the way back to 1880. So, for example, the temperature of each individual June is compared to the average of all 100 Junes between 1901 and 2000, each July is compared to 100 years of Julys, and so on.
More global heat records will fall and extreme weather will worsen, if climate change and the burning of coal, oil and gas continues unabated. We must transition away from fossil fuels to a net zero emissions world. Australia can become a powerhouse in the new economy, if it uses its world-class renewable resources, land abundance, workforce, and infrastructure. 2022 must be a turning point for climate action.
- According to multiple leading datasets, 2021 was one of the seven hottest years on record, coming in at 0.84°C above the average temperature of the 1900s.
- The 20th Century itself averaged 0.27°C above the pre-industrial period, where there was a step change in the consumption of fossil fuels and industrialisation of agriculture. This means 2022 was 1.11°C above pre-industrial temperatures.
- While back-to-back La Niña events in the Pacific Ocean meant that 2021 was cooler than many recent record-breakers – such as 2016, where the world was almost a full degree (+0.99°C) hotter than last century’s average – it was still hotter than every year of the 20th Century.
- 2021 was the 45th straight year where global average temperatures over land and ocean were above the average temperature of the 20th century. In 1976, the global temperature was 0.07°C below the century’s average, and every year since has been hotter.
- The most recent individual month that was below average for that time of year was December 1984, a little over 36 years ago. This means that as of the beginning of January 2022, the earth has experienced 444 consecutive above average months.
- The past ten years (2012-2021) was the hottest ten year period on record (+0.85°C above the 20th century average). The last six decades have all been hotter than the one before.
- All of the ten hottest years have occurred since 2000, and the last eight years were the eight hottest years on record (in order: 2016, 2020, 2019, 2015, 2017, 2021, 2018 and 2014).
- There have been twenty-one years in the 21st Century so far, and all except one is in the top twenty hottest years on record. The one year of the 21st Century that does not make the list is 2008, which sits at 22st, and the other year in the hottest twenty is 1998, which sits at twelfth.
We can expect these heat records to continue to fall over the coming decades. Should we fail to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, even narrowly, we can expect one out of every three years between now and 2050 to set all time global heat records, bringing ever-increasing risk to lives, livelihoods and the places we cherish.
This brings the need to reduce emissions – particularly through reducing the production and consumption of coal, oil and gas – into stark relief. Current levels of global heating are already existential for many. We cannot afford to fail.