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Annual U.S. temperature compared to the 20th-century average for each U.S. Climate Normals period from 1901-1930 (upper left) to 1991-2020 (lower right). Image courtesy of NOAA NCEI.

Climate Change

No One Surprised 2021 One Of The Hottest Years On Record — And That’s Terrifying

Scientific research shows the deadly 2021 Pacific Northwest heatwave, for example, would’ve been virtually impossible without climate change.

Statement by Dr. Kristina Dahl at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Originally published by Union of Concerned Scientists.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government agencies NASA and NOAA released their latest scientific data on 2021 climate change trends, including how the global average temperature compares to that of years past. According to NASA and NOAA, 2021 was the sixth warmest year on record globally. This data continues a long-term trend that saw the previous eight years ranking as the eight warmest recorded.

Below is a statement by Dr. Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“What terrifies me about the latest data showing 2021 ranks as the sixth hottest year on record is that these facts and figures are no longer surprising or shocking. Rising temperatures are already triggering dire impacts worldwide and will only worsen as the planet warms. Scientific research shows the deadly 2021 Pacific Northwest heatwave, for example, would’ve been virtually impossible without climate change. It’s time for policymakers to take decisive actions and pass policies that sharply rein in heat-trapping emissions, such as the Build Back Better Act. Failure to act together with the global community will all but ensure more devastating impacts and even irreversible climate tipping points. In 2022, we need bold leaders who prioritize the well-being of people and the planet, not incrementalism or regression from those beholden to the fossil fuel industry.”

A UCS study was also published today in the peer-reviewed journal Elementa. It found that between now and 2065, climate change is projected to quadruple U.S. outdoor workers’ exposure to hazardous heat conditions, jeopardizing their health, and placing up to $55.4 billion of their earnings at risk annually if no action is taken to reduce global warming emissions. This analysis was previously released on a preprint server in August.

In addition to Dr. Dahl, UCS has the following experts on staff who can discuss this and other scientific findings from the latest 2021 NASA and NOAA data, as well as their significance nationally and globally:

  • Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and lead economist for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. She is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Click here for her biography.
  • Dr. Juan Declet-Barreto, a senior social scientist for climate vulnerability at UCS. He is available for interviews in English and Spanish. Dr. Declet-Barreto is based in Washington, D.C. Click here for his biography.
  • Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, the director of climate science and a senior climate scientist at UCS. She is also a co-author of the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment. Dr. Ekwurzel is based in Washington D.C. Click here for her biography.
  • Dr. Rachel Licker, a senior climate scientist at UCS. She is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Click here for her biography.
  • Erika Spanger-Siegfried, the director of strategic climate analytics at UCS. She is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Click here for her biography.
  • Shana Udvardy, a climate resilience analyst at UCS. She is based in Washington, D.C. Click here to view her biography.

Media contact: Ashley Siefert Nunes

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