Humans to blame for Earth’s record temperature
In a troubling upward trajectory, Earth has reached the highest temperature ever recorded for the third year in a row. In light of this alarming discovery, scientists are putting the blame for climate change resolutely on human activity.
Three independent agencies – titans of climate change data: Nasa, Noaa and the UK Met Office – have formally released findings that sixteen of the seventeen hottest years on record have been in this century. And the reprehensible statistics don’t stop there, with scientists estimating that the world hasn’t been this warm for 115,000 years, and that the high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere haven’t been experienced on the planet for a gargantuan four million years.
Meanwhile the present-day ramifications are plain to see: searing heatwaves inundated places such as Pretoria, South Africa, with a record temperature of 42.7C, Phalodi in India, which reached 51.0C, and Mitribah in Kuwait, recording a staggering 54.0C in July.
Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has called warming in the Arctic throughout 2016 “astounding”, amidst findings by Noaa that the Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest annual average extent on record, and the Antarctic sea ice to the second smallest extent on record.
And with the ascendency of Donald Trump to the presidency, the outlook remains resoundingly grim. It’s no secret what Trump thinks of climate change, once declaring global warming an “expensive hoax” in an incendiary tweet. One Twitter user retaliated that the only “expensive hoax” was the president-elect’s infamous mop of pale ginger hair.
Hijinks aside, Trump’s proposed administration is replete with climate change deniers: former Texas governor Rick Perry published a book in 2010 proclaiming that “we have been experiencing a cooling trend”, whilst congressman Mike Pompeo has exhibited derision in Congress for “what you all call climate change today”. And whilst Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson is one of the few who deign to pay lip service to climate change, it doesn’t change the fact that he runs the world’s biggest non-state oil and gas extraction company.
Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics has implored the president-elect to take heed and “act on this important scientific information”, making it clear that “any politician who denies this evidence from world-class climate scientists will be wilfully turning a blind eye to rising risks that threaten the lives and livelihoods of their citizens.”
Meanwhile, news from head of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Petteri Taalas, that although the extra heat from the powerful El Niño event has “disappeared”, “The heat from global warming will continue. Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen. ‘Once in a generation’ heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular.” Indeed, news that the Earth has risen 1.1C above the levels seen before the industrial revolution is grave, bringing us closer to the 1.5C target established during the Paris agreement of December 2015. In other words, we shouldn’t take our foot off the pedal just yet. Or rather, that’s exactly what we should do.
In the meantime, we humans are left to grapple with the fallout, with Prof Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University saying: “The spate of record-warm years that we have seen in the 21st century can only be explained by human-caused climate change. The effect of human activity on our climate is no longer subtle. It’s plain as day, as are the impacts – in the form of record floods, droughts, superstorms and wildfires – that it is having on us and our planet.”