According to the United Nations weather agency, global temperatures for the first six months of 2016 have been high enough to set this year up as the hottest year in recorded human history. As much of the country is currently in the midst of a devastating heat wave, the idea that we are currently in the midst of the hottest year in history isn’t too hard to believe.
Petteri Taalas, the World Meteorological Organization secretary-general, said the reason for 2016 being on track to becoming the hottest year on record is partially due to the El Niño that bridged 2015 and 2016, but now that El Niño has passed, “climate change, caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases,” will continue to crank up the heat this year. As a result, the secretary-general clarified, the result will be more heatwaves, higher impact tropical cyclones, and more extreme rainfall. Are you experiencing drought or torrential rains? It all depends upon where in the world you live. Droughts have plagued central Russia, southern Argentina, Chile, northern Colombia, northeastern Brazil, and the western and central United States. Northern Argentina, northern and central Europe, a wide swath of Australia, and central and southern Asia have experienced wetter than normal weather conditions.
— Lloyd Doggett (@RepLloydDoggett) July 22, 2016
Another result of 2016 being the hottest year on record was an early Arctic sea ice melt, and the same carbon dioxide levels which ultimately drive global warming are higher than ever. The increase in the past 12 months in carbon dioxide concentrations are shocking scientists. The concentrations have exceeded the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere so far this year.
The World Meteorological Organization used information from the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Great Britain’s Met Office, and the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting to assess 2016’s high potential for becoming the hottest year in recorded history.
The general upwards trend of temperatures worldwide is impossible to deny. June of 2016 was the 14th consecutive month of record heat both in the oceans and on land. Additionally, June of 2016 was the 378th straight month (since December of 1984) with temperatures exceeding the 20th century average. So far in 2016, each and every month has contained record warmth across the globe.
All of these combined factors prompted Secretary-General Taalas to speak to the necessity of curbing climate change.
“This underlines more starkly than ever the need to approve and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, and to speed up the shift to low carbon economies and renewable energy.”
In advance of this report that 2016 was on track to become the hottest year on record, the UN initiated the Paris Agreement in which a worldwide response to dealing with the greenhouse gas emission mitigation was proposed. On April 22, 2016 (Earth Day), the agreement was opened for signature by the countries of the world at a ceremony in New York City. As of last month (June of 2016), 178 member countries had signed the Paris Agreement but only 19 had ratified it, and that number is too small for the treaty to enter into force (thus far, Norway is the only major country to have both signed and ratified the Paris Agreement).
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging world leaders to attend a special event on September 21 to give their ratification of the Paris Agreement before 2016 — what may well be the hottest year in human history — closes out.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]