European governments are unanimous that measures to tackle climate change need to be top of the agenda if we are to act effectively in adapting to climate change and mitigating its consequences. Already we can see the warning signs such as rising sea levels, loss of ice mass and the increased likelihood of extreme weather events which can have an impact on businesses, infrastructure and quality of life. But in order to make informed decisions around mitigating and adapting to climate change, policymakers need access to trustworthy, reliable and timely data that can give an accurate picture of the state of the climate.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) has just released its European State of the Climate 2020 (ESOTC) report, which reveals that Europe experienced its hottest year on record. Meanwhile for the world, 2020 was one of three warmest years ever recorded. Concentrations of greenhouse gases are also continuing to increase and in fact were the highest measured by satellites since space-based observations began in 2003.
Freja Vamborg, Senior Scientist at the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and Lead Author of the European State of the Climate 2020 (ESOTC), comments: “Our findings highlight the continued warming trend, across Europe and the rest of the globe. This underlines just how important it is to have access to the right data to make informed decisions about climate change.”
The report is published every April by C3S, one of six thematic services of the European Union’s Earth Monitoring programme Copernicus. The role of C3S, which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission, is to monitor and inform. It consistently monitors, collects and processes a vast amount of climate data, which is provided free and openly to help users make informed decisions about the future. Its mission is to support the European Union’s mitigation and adaptation policies across different economic sectors. C3S achieves this by providing consistent and authoritative information about climate change through tools and products that can help decision-makers make informed choices. Scientists at C3S use a recognized method called reanalysis, combining measurements from satellites and ‘in situ’ stations on land in the air and at sea with computer modelling to recreate historical climate conditions. It is this reconstruction of the past climate which helps to build up a long-term picture.
“The European State of the Climate 2020, published by the Copernicus Climate Change Service, plays a crucial role in the roadmap to a more sustainable future.”
The European State of the Climate 2020 is one such flagship information product created by C3S and the result of an impressive international collaboration between C3S, other Copernicus services, as well as partner organisations and external entities such as world-renowned climate institutions and national meteorological services. Thanks to the combined efforts of all entities involved, the report is able to look at many different aspects of our changing climate in close detail. As a result, the report provides a crucial and timely snapshot of the state of the climate over the previous year which is then compared with a reference period spanning several decades to give the long-term view.
“As the report has grown over the last four years, it has become an important benchmark for future assessments of the environment. It’s a European success story; scientists and institutions all across Europe helped compiling this report to provide knowledge about our changing climate to support policy development and climate risk management”, Vamborg adds.
With a focus on Europe and the European sector of the Arctic, the key climate variables alongside surface temperatures covered in the report include ice loss, lake surface temperatures, wildfire activity and vegetation cover. It also highlights standout events such as Storm Alex which brought exceptional amounts of rainfall in October 2020, leading to above-average river discharge across in large parts of Western Europe and devastating floods in some regions.
The signatories of the Paris Agreement are currently updating and reviewing their climate action plans before the next climate conference, COP26, taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom in November this year. The ESOTC report is designed to help policymakers put together a workable route and develop an evidence-based framework towards their goals, like the European Commission’s Green Deal which strives to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
Tackling climate change is the responsibility of us all and the ESOTC 2020 provides a guide not only for policymakers, but for a broad range of users to work together towards creating a greener society which remains economically viable.
It is only when we are armed with the appropriate, accurate, timely and quality-assured information provided by reports such as the ESOTC, along with the consistent monitoring work carried out by the Copernicus services, that we can tackle climate change. With the right data, we can all adapt as a society to work towards one goal – the long-term future of our planet.