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The Biggest Climate Change Events in 2021

The Biggest Climate Change Events in 2021

2021 was another challenging year. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to loom, 2021 was also a year filled with unprecedented climate and weather extremes. For some, the effects of climate change have been made clear by what we experienced this year. But for most, it has been an undeniable sign that we are charging towards the tipping point of the climate crisis. World leaders gathered at COP26, the UN climate summit, put their heads together to set out collective pathways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, managing only to agree upon “phasing down” coal and setting down rules for a global carbon market. This is the decisive decade to fight the climate crisis, and we can strive to do a lot more. We take a look back at some of the biggest climate change events in 2021, and hopefully encourage and galvanise greater climate action in 2022. 

2021’s Biggest Climate Change Events 

Rising Global Temperatures

The global mean temperature for 2021 was 1.08 ± 0.13C above the pre-industrial  (1850-1900) average. 2021 has been somewhere between the 5th and 7th warmest year on record globally so far. climate change events 2021

More Severe and Prolonged Heat Waves

Unprecedented heat waves affected the west coast of North America throughout June and July, while southeastern Europe including Greece and Italy experienced its worst heat wave in August. 

Widespread and More Frequent Wildfires

Extreme Rainfall and Fatal Flash Floods

Record High Arctic Sea Ice and Glaciers Melt

More mass was lost in 2021 due to rising global temperatures and prolonged heat waves. 

climate change events 2021 Record Sea Level Rise

Global sea level rose an average of 4.4 mm per year between 2013 and 2021.

Historic Levels of Ocean Acidification

 As the world’s oceans absorb around 23% of the annual anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions released to the atmosphere, ocean waters have become more acidic as a result.  

Severe and Prolonged Droughts

Significant drought affected much of subtropical South America for the second successive year, as well as the US. 

Extreme Tropical Cyclones

Cold Temperature Records

Despite the other extreme heat wave events, some parts of the world experienced some of its coldest winters on record. 

Power Generation from Coal Hit All-time High

Increased Rates of Deforestation

Aside from These Climate Change Events, There’s Been Good News

Record Year for Renewables Capacity

despite rising costs for key materials used to make solar panels and wind turbines, 2021 was a record year of growth for renewable energy capacity. Renewables is forecast to reach 290GW, surpassing 2020’s record of 280GW.  

climate change events 2021 Increased Electric Vehicle Sales

EU Carbon Prices Hit All-time High

Rhino and Elephant Poaching Declined

Landmark Wildlife Trafficking Bill

If you liked these climate change events, you might also like: 11 Interesting Facts about Climate Change


About the Author

Olivia Lai

Olivia is a journalist and editor based in Hong Kong with previous experience covering politics, art and culture. She is passionate about wildlife and ocean conservation, with a keen interest in climate diplomacy. She’s also a graduate of University of Edinburgh in International Relations with a Master’s degree from The University of Hong Kong in Journalism. Olivia was the former Managing Editor at Earth.Org.

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