Record Warming Rises Towards Danger Zone

Record Warming Rises Towards Danger ZoneIndia says it needs to open new coal mines. Image: TripodStories-AB via Wikimedia Commons

Meteorologists say that a combination of human and natural causes will make 2015 temperatures the hottest ever – halfway to the 2°C safety threshold.

Nothing is certain until it happens, but the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) is confident enough say the gathering pace of climate change means that 2015 is likely to prove the warmest year on record.

Global average surface temperature, it says, is likely to be the warmest yet, and to reach “the symbolic and significant milestone of 1°C above the pre-industrial era” − halfway to the 2°C threshold that governments have agreed as the maximum warming tolerable if the Earth is to avert dangerously unpredictable climate change.

The WMO says the combined causes of this historically unprecedented heat are both natural and human-induced: a strong El Niño − the periodic climate phenomenon in the Pacific − and anthropogenic warming resulting from the rising emissions of greenhouse gases, largely through the burning of fossil fuels, agriculture and deforestation.

Extreme weather events

Not only does this year look likely to be a record-breaker, but a five-year analysis by the WMO shows the years 2011-2015 to have been the warmest five-year period on record, with many extreme weather events – especially heatwaves – influenced by climate change.

“The state of the global climate in 2015 will make history for a number of reasons,” says Michel Jarraud, the WMO secretary-general. “Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new highs, and in the northern hemisphere spring 2015 the three-month global average concentration of CO2 crossed the 400 parts per million barrier for the first time.

“2015 is likely to be the hottest year on record, with ocean surface temperatures at the highest level since measurements began. It is probable that the 1°C threshold will be crossed. This is all bad news for the planet.

“The people who have put carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the last 100 years must take the greater responsibility for cutting the emissions”

“Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled. We have the knowledge and the tools to act. We have a choice. Future generations will not.”

“Added to that, we are witnessing a powerful El Niño event, which is still gaining in strength. This is influencing weather patterns in many parts of the world, and fuelled an exceptionally warm October. The overall warming impact of this El Niño is expected to continue into 2016.”

The WMO issued its provisional statement on the status of the climate in 2015, and the additional five-year analysis for 2011-2015, to inform negotiations at the UN climate change conference due to start in Paris on 30 November.

The negotiators’ main task there will be to work out an agreement that will take the world closer to reaching the 2°C target. There is no prospect that they will reach the target itself, but they may make significant progress towards it.

Although the WMO’s announcement will remind delegates of the urgency of reaching an agreement, they will still need to reckon with the insistence of some countries that development must take priority over a low-carbon economy.

India, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, plans to open one large new coal mine a month until 2020, and expects to triple its emissions by 2030.

Investment in renewables

Its former environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, told the BBC: “The people who have put carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the last hundred years must take the greater responsibility for cutting the emissions.

“We are making a huge investment in renewables . . . but even with the most aggressive solar, aggressive nuclear, aggressive hydro, we’ll still need to double our coal consumption over the next 15 years.”

Many experts argue that 2°C is a politically-chosen threshold, with little scientific justification, and some influential voices say the target should be as low as 1.5°C. These include some of the states most threatened by climate change.

The WMO’s preliminary estimate, based on data from January to October, shows that the global average surface temperature for 2015 so far is around 0.73 °C above the 1961-1990 average of 14°C, and approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial 1880-1899 period. The global average sea-surface temperature, which set a record last year, is likely to equal or surpass that record in 2015.

By the end of September this year, 2011-15 was the world’s warmest five-year period on record, at about 0.57°C above the 1961-90 average. It was the warmest five years recorded for Asia, Europe, South America and Oceania, and for North America. – Climate News Network

About the Author

Alex Kirby is a British journalistAlex Kirby is a British journalist specializing in environmental issues. He worked in various capacities at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for nearly 20 years and left the BBC in 1998 to work as a freelance journalist. He also provides media skills training to companies, universities and NGOs. He is also currently the environmental correspondent for BBC News Online, and hosted BBC Radio 4's environment series, Costing the Earth. He also writes for The Guardian and Climate News Network. He also writes a regular column for BBC Wildlife magazine.

English Afrikaans Arabic Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Dutch Filipino French German Hindi Indonesian Italian Japanese Korean Malay Persian Portuguese Russian Spanish Swahili Swedish Thai Turkish Urdu Vietnamese

LATEST VIDEOS

Jay Inslee Tells Hayes That He Wants To Gut The Filibuster To Fight Climate Change
by MSNBC
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is running for president on the single issue of climate change and argues that doing…
Causes and Effects of Climate Change
by National Geographic
What causes climate change (also known as global warming)? And what are the effects of climate change? Learn the human…
Extreme Weather and Global Warming
by NASA Goddard
Is the frequency of extreme weather events a sign that global warming is gaining pace and exceeding predictions? Bill…
Thanks to Climate Change, Wet Winters No Match for Drier California Summers
by KPIX CBS SF Bay Area
If the emerald-green hills around Northern California have you thinking recent rains have put a damper on the fire…
Climate Change Is Not One Issue
by MSNBC
"Climate change is not one issue," said David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," but is…
The Heat: Climate change
by CGTN America
Images gathered by NASA show an increase in foliage in China and India. The greening effect is mainly due to ambitious…
No company is doing enough to combat climate change: Jeremy Grantham
by CNBC Television
Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO, on climate change and what needs to be done to combat it.
Power Plants Are POISONING Groundwater All Over America
by The Ring of Fire
According to a new report, 90% of coal-fired power plants across the country have completely contaminated the…

LATEST ARTICLES

Default Image
Come on, UK weather forecasters – tell it like it is on climate change
by Adam Corner
They have a national reach that most climate campaigners would die for. They are familiar and respected experts on the…
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
Green New Deal: 6 places already reducing emissions from buildings
by David Roberts
One of the elements of the Green New Deal resolution that has caused the most consternation among critics on the right…
Default Image
UK environmentalists target Barclays in fossil fuels campaign
by Matthew Taylor
A UK-wide campaign is being launched to persuade one of the country’s biggest high street banks to stop investing…
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
Oceanic carbon uptake could falter
by Tim Radford
What does oceanic carbon uptake achieve? Greenhouse gas that sinks below the waves slows global warming a little and…
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
Britain (Yes, Rainy Britain) Could Run Short of Water by 2050, Official Says
by Global Warming & Climate Change
“Climate change plus growth equals an existential threat,” Mr. Bevan said. To avoid severe water shortages, he added,…
Default Image
Record high US temperatures outpace record lows two to one, study finds
by Associated Press
Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver…
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
by BBC News - Science & Environment
Image copyright PA Image caption Low water levels at Wayoh Reservoir near Bolton in the UK heatwave in July 2018 Within…
Default Image
Why you'll never meet a white supremacist who cares about climate change
by Rebecca Solnit
As the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the…