This week the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that 2020 was tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record, a worrying trend to end the hottest decade on known record. Many such concerning milestones were breached in the last decade and there is ample evidence of an acceleration of such events as time passes. With the last six years being the hottest on record, 2020 actually also saw the highest ever temperature ever reliably recorded with an August day in Death Valley, California clocking in at 54.4 C. In the same year, it was also observed that parts of the Arctic and Siberia were undergoing even more drastic warming as compared to the rest of the planet. Aside from record wildfires, last year also set records for the depletion of Arctic sea ice, a worrying sign of our water bodies continuing to warm at a reckless pace. To add to this, most countries fell behind climate change goals in 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic. Lockdowns and new waves of the virus also pushed back COP 26 to next year. In a year where getting economies and lives back on their feet is paramount, it is not hard to see why climate change diplomacy and green economy overhaul plans would be waylaid. But, 2020 has also definitely been a year that has shown the folly of ignoring climate change, Several organisations have given conservative estimates that try to comprehend the staggering human and financial costs of the many-many climate disasters that afflicted the world this year. Even those who aren't experts or indeed strongly believe in climate change cannot deny that 2020 was a year when nature's fury was on full display.
While there were hopes at the beginning of the year that the pandemic would give perspective to the level of cooperation and steadfastness required to tackle problems of such scale, there are few signs yet that the global community is tackling climate change at the level that it should, at this point. Yes, there are other priorities but it is unambiguously clear that we cannot put-off action till a time we are actually prepared. While most of the major economies may have missed the chance to rejig their economies to inculcate climate change management as an agenda, experts are optimistic about 2021.
For various reasons, this year is being seen as an emergence of new hope in the face of the many crises we are currently tackling. It is important to note that this optimism isn't based on any new technology or understanding that we have of the crises ahead of us. It is based on the idea that humanity has undergone trial by fire and looks set to emerge from the other side in the near future, There are, of course, hopes that promises by world governments for a more ambitious 2021 climate action plan will materialise. But there are also encouraging signs such as reports that show eight of the 46 poorest nations of the world submitting stronger climate change plans in the previous year. Countries like Rwanda, Nepal and Cambodia may hold minimal responsibility for the current state of climate change but there are hopes that they may have more room to manoeuvre the direction of their economies and lead other more developed nations by example.
There are a few other concrete changes that could make 2021 a formative year. In October last year, the International Energy Agency noted that renewables like solar energy are now the cheapest forms of energy possible because of recent advancements and investments. When combined with growing public pressure, there is an expectation that this would result in the private sector making greater investments in the green economy model. Finally, there is the small but significant matter of the world's foremost polluter, the US returning to the climate change prevention fold. Incoming President Biden has not only vowed to rejoin the Paris Accord as soon as possible, but he has also made climate change a major agenda for his administration in the time ahead. With his newly acquired majority in the Senate as well as the House, there is an expectation that Biden will be able to push his domestic and international climate change agenda more smoothly. There is little expectation of any drastic actions however as Biden does have a 'broken' country and a divided Congress to contend with.
All the same, after the harrowing dark of 2020, there is ample ground for moderate expectations that 2021 will redefine our relationship with the world around us.