How many more years of records before scientists break through their inherited denial and admit we are spinning out of control?
2016 was the hottest year on record, setting a new high for the third year in a row, with scientists firmly putting the blame on human activities that drive climate change.
Direct temperature measurements stretch back to 1880, but scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years.
Arctic ice melt is ‘already affecting weather patterns where you live right now’.
In 2016, global warming delivered scorching temperatures around the world. The resulting extreme weather means the impacts of climate change on people are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected, according to scientists.
The natural El Niño climate phenomenon, which helped ramp up temperatures to “shocking” levels in early 2016, has now waned, but carbon emissions were the major factor and will continue to drive rising heat.
Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said: “El Niño was a factor this year, but both 2015 and 2016 would have been records even without it.” He said about 90% of the warming signal in 2016 was due to rising greenhouse gas emissions. He expects 2017 to be another extremely hot year.
The new data shows the Earth has now risen about 1.1C above the levels seen before the industrial revolution, when large-scale fossil fuel burning began. This brings it perilously close to the 1.5C target included as an aim of the global climate agreement signed in Paris in December 2015.
Noaa also found Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest annual average extent on record and Antarctic sea ice to the second smallest extent on record. The warming in the Arctic in 2016 was “astounding”, Schmidt said.