Global Climate Report Shows Time is Ticking on Climate Action

Last updated: 21st June 2021

In 1993 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) began producing its State of the Global Climate Reports, in response to rising concerns around projected climate change. Now, 28 years on from the first report, the WMO has released their latest State of the Global Climate Report for 2020 (published 20th April) and the outlook isn’t promising.

As Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the WMO highlights, the key indicators outlined in the report point to “relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of high-impact events and severe losses and damages affecting people, societies and economies.” With a global mean temperature in 2020 around 1.2 °C warmer than pre-industrial times, and global averages of CO2 already exceeding 410 parts per million (ppm), the report raises some serious questions on whether the target advised by the IPCC to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C can be met, before the damage becomes irreparable.

The report is yet another resounding wake-up call that we need to be taking action now. The data shows that, despite temporary reductions in emissions while the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was still one of the three warmest years on record. Concentrations of the major greenhouse gases, CO2, CH4, and N2O, also continued to rise, and temperatures in Verkhoyansk, Russia reached 38.0 °C – the highest recorded temperature anywhere north of the Arctic Circle.

The bad news didn’t end there. Arctic minimum sea-ice extent in September 2020 was the second lowest on record, rising sea-levels accelerated and increases in ocean heat storage and acidification continued to diminish the ocean’s capacity to moderate climate change. And that’s not even mentioning the 9.8 million displacements during the first half of 2020, largely due to climate hazards and disasters, as well as the exceptional occurrences of hurricanes, extreme heatwaves, severe droughts and wildfires during the 2020 North Atlantic hurricane season, which resulted in tens of billions of US dollars in economic losses and many deaths. 

While it’s been encouraging to see our political leaders stepping up their climate targets in recent months, in the lead up to COP26, we need to make sure that they are held to account on these. We also need to set more vigorous climate action into motion, across all levels of industry and society, wherever possible.

It can be difficult to know where to start. So here are a few tips we can offer, from our perspective, to help industry, companies, investors and citizens begin to make a meaningful impact in tackling the climate crisis.

Engage with new technologies

If there’s anything this report tells us, it’s that we can’t continue to follow the status quo without expecting to see some devastating consequences.

In his foreword, United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, states: “We know what needs to be done to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts now and in the future. We have the technology to succeed. But current levels of climate ambition and action are significantly short of what is needed.” 

Throughout the industrial revolution, industry and society rapidly adapted to new technologies and ways of working. Unfortunately, nobody foresaw the devastating impacts this would have on our climate, but it’s important to recognise that our ability to innovate and adapt to new technologies and ways of living/working can also provide the solution. We just need to be willing to adapt.

The built environment, in particular, is one area where we know we are inherently adverse to change. Fossil fuels provide an energy source with which the construction industry has trust and knows how to work with, and the uptake of digital solutions, while gathering pace now, has been historically slow.

With the right technologies and digital tools in place (such as our own Digital Twin technology) we can equip the industry, and other built environment stakeholders, with the tools they need to form cohesive and effective decarbonisation plans. Allowing them to adapt to new ways of working, identify which solutions can achieve the best outcomes, engage key stakeholders and avoid making decisions which will result in secondary problems or be too cost prohibitive further down the line.

Bring your building(s) to the centre of the strategy

The built environment is well known as being the source of almost 40% of carbon emissions worldwide, but it is also an area where practically everyone has the chance to make an impact, whether you are a building or portfolio owner, an energy or facilities manager, a city planner, or citizen.

We spend, on average, 90% of our time in buildings, so there is massive scope here to uncover efficiencies and carbon savings. It’s also important that our approach is targeted towards considering the impact of our buildings, not only on the climate, but also on the day to day lives of the people that use them.


Digital Twins for the Built Environment are one solution that can support this approach. Working off shared knowledge and data, these tools can empower everyone, regardless of their connection or role in the use of a building, to make climate-wise decisions and improvements. Not only can they provide dashboards and tools to drive operational efficiencies, track progress towards targets, measure and verify results, and test which retrofit or improvement investments are the best in any given situation. They can also be used to engage with building occupants and citizens to guide action and inspire change, gather feedback on proposals, policies and targets, and inform on progress made.

Engage in community-based approaches to increase your impact

It doesn’t take world-leading science to tell us that collaborative approaches focused on bringing communities together to tackle the problem as one will have much more impact than working individually in silos. That isn’t to say that individuals can’t take steps to make a difference, but those efforts can be amplified when we work together to form cohesive collaborative strategies. Community-based approaches will also help to ensure that our decarbonisation plans consider and represent everyone.

We’ve already witnessed the power of community collaboration in many of the projects we have worked on, such as the Trent Basin community in Nottingham, the Orkney Island of Eday, and the city of Limerick in Ireland. These projects, and many others, are testament to the power of communities working together as one, but we need to see many more following in their footsteps and build momentum.

Quality information is key

Understanding climate change and figuring out how to navigate the path to a decarbonised society can be a minefield. In order to understand the issue and the implications of a changing climate, it’s important to seek out quality information from a reputable source, such as this report from the WMO. However, once you understand the problem, how can you even begin to take meaningful action?

This is why it is important to seek out solutions that can provide you with reliable information to help weigh up the various options available to you, de-risking the decisions you need to make along the path to net-zero. There will be no “one size fits all” solution to climate change, but with the right tools, capable of transforming the vast amount of data now available to us into information, we can move forward knowing that our decisions have been based on intelligent, reliable and well-informed insights to maximise our impact. There is now little time for error, and this is exactly what our technology can provide.

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