The Top Five Climate Stories of 2020

From raging wildfires to a pending shift on U.S. climate action, the year was a notable one for climate change.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has been a defining story of 2020, the year has been a notable one on the climate front as well. Developments have ranged from an agonizing array of warming-fueled disasters that impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions around the world, to signs that some countries (including China and members of the European Union) are making efforts to move forward on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving this warming.

The flames of record-breaking conflagrations tore through the parched parts of Australia, the lush Amazon and huge swaths of the Western U.S. this year. In Australia, fires early in the year affected hundreds of millions of wild animals and spewed smoke 20 miles up into the atmosphere. In California, a relentless onslaught of blazes torched more than four million acres—almost doubling the state’s previous record for the most area burned in a season. The August Complex fire alone scorched more than 1 million acres, making it by far the largest in California’s recorded history. Millions in the West felt the fires’ impacts as smoke spread, making the air unhealthy to breathe. The Amazon also saw terrible destruction from blazes, including in virgin forest.

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