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Climate change: 2019 was Europe's warmest year on record

Europe is heating faster than the global average as new data indicates that last year was the warmest on record. While globally the year was the second warmest, a series of heatwaves helped push the region to a new high mark. Over the past five years, global temperatures were, on average, just over 1C warmer than at the end of the 19th century.

In Europe, in the same period, temperatures were almost 2C warmer.
- July was 'marginally' world's warmest month ever
- Hundreds of temperature records broken over summer
- Last decade 'on course' to be warmest

The data has been published as Earth Day marks its 50th anniversary. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says the physical signs of climate change and impacts on our planet have gathered pace in the past five years, which were the hottest on record.
The European State of the Climate 2019 shows that warm conditions and summer heatwaves saw drought in many parts of central Europe. While the UK saw a new all-time high temperature recorded in Cambridge in July, in many places across the continent, the weather was 3-4C warmer than normal.  This is reflected in the amount of sunshine that hit Europe across the year. The number of sunshine hours was the largest on record. The hot summer weather across Europe was followed by one of the wettest Novembers on record, with rainfall almost four times the normal amount in western and southern Europe.

"Europe has indeed been warming significantly faster than the global average," said Prof Rowan Sutton, director of science (climate) at the UK's National Centre for Atmospheric Science. "This is for two reasons. First, land regions in general are warming faster than the oceans, largely because the greater availability of moisture over the oceans damps the rate of warming. Secondly, reductions in specific forms of air pollution have contributed to the recent warming in Europe, particularly in summer."

Researchers in the field are keen to underline that while the coronavirus pandemic might mean a temporary drop in emissions of greenhouse gases, much more will need to be done to arrest the worrying warming trend. "While pollution has dropped with economic activity in response to the global pandemic, CO2 is not just disappearing overnight," said Prof Daniela Schmidt, from the University of Bristol. "The impact of the warming like sea level rise will be with us for centuries. The pandemic has made us less able to tackle the impact of climate change impacts. Our communities which have just been flooded will find sheltering in their damaged homes much more challenging. While COVID-19 has caused a severe international health and economic crisis, failure to tackle climate change may threaten human well-being, ecosystems and economies for centuries," he said. 

We need to flatten both the pandemic and climate change curves. We need to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19. We need to act together in the interests of the health and welfare of humanity not just for the coming weeks and months, but for many generations ahead.

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