State Of The Climate: ‘Earth’s Fever Rises’

During the first half of 2016, temperatures have reached a blistering peak and are still climbing past the record-breaking 2015 averages.

Last year was record-breaking for concentrations of all three of the main long-lived greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), according to EcoWatch.

According to “State of the Climate 2015,” a report released Tuesday by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, a strong El Niño has added to the impact of long-term climate change. The forces that drove 2015’s average global temperatures 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (more than 1 degree Celsius) higher than normal are amplified in this year’s scale.

“Blame it on El Niño,” said Nature World News, citing the “State of the Climate” report, which said last year’s El Niño was one of the hottest phenomena ever recorded. The extreme heat from 2015’s El Niño caused sea levels to rise and global temperatures to spike.

The El Niño also created the release of higher amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and opened the door to natural disasters such as wildfires and cyclones in the Pacific. Episodes of drought doubled.

The El Niño cycle is drawing to a close, and yet in July, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed global temperatures for the first half of 2016 broke 2015’s record-setting heat. Arctic summer sea ice is approaching an all-time low.

Thomas Karl, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, spoke at a press conference on Tuesday to present the peer-reviewed report, which was authored by 456 scientists from 62 nations.

“I think clearly the report in 2015 shows not only that the temperature of the planet is increasing but all the related symptoms that you would expect to see in rising temperature are occurring.

“It’s more than temperature. We’re beginning to see it in ecosystems. The impacts are beyond the physical and entering the realm of the biophysical.”

“Currently the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of lower latitudes,” said Jackie Richter-Menge, the report’s Arctic chapter editor and a research civil engineer at the U.S. Marine Environmental Laboratory.

Richter-Menge noted that as winter sea ice begins to melt earlier in the spring and summer, fish populations are changing.

“Boreal or warm-affinity species are moving north and displacing Arctic or cold-affinity species.”

Warmer oceans are blamed for this year’s severe coral bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef.

David Waskow, the director of international climate initiative at the World Resources Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., said that the report’s findings “underscore the urgency of taking action and the importance of moving forward in a quite ambitious way, and a speedy way, with implementing the Paris Agreement,” the international accord on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s clear that the impacts are not out there in the future somewhere but here in the present. That makes it very clear that the time for action also has to be in the present.”

TakePart reported that in order for the Paris Agreement to come into effect, at least 55 nations, representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, must ratify the accord. So far, 20 countries have done so.

Some of the world’s biggest contributors to the gas emissions problem are Australia, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. All four countries promised in 2015 to ratify the agreement. They have yet to do so.

Waskow is optimistic that the agreement could be in force in time for this fall’s international climate conference.

“Countries are now starting to develop long-term plans for 2050 as well, which is quite important to how they see their long-term arc of action. Those plans will help highlight the transformation that’s really needed to get to net zero emissions in the second half of the century.”

The 2016 international climate conference is scheduled for November in Marrakech, Morocco.

[Photo by Francisco Munoz/AP Images]