Hottest year not warmly welcomed
WASHINGTON — The Earth set a series of dire records in 2016, including for the hottest year in modern times, highest sea level and most heat-trapping gases ever emitted, a global climate report said on Thursday.
A range of key climate and weather indicators show the planet is growing increasingly warm, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down, said the annual State of the Climate Report.
“Last year’s record heat resulted from the combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Nino early in the year,” the report said.
“The major indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet,” it added, noting that several markers — such as land and ocean temperatures, sea level and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere — broke records set one year earlier.
The ominous news comes two months after US President Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the 2015 Paris accord on global warming, a decision that sparked widespread international criticism.
In the past, billionaire Trump has called climate change “a hoax” invented by China, dismissing scientific evidence of human contributions to rising temperatures.
But as humanity continues to rely on fossil fuels for energy, unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases are polluting the atmosphere, acting like a blanket to capture heat around the Earth, the report emphasized.
All the major greenhouse gases that drive warming, including carbon dioxide, or CO2, methane and nitrous oxide, rose to new heights, it said.
Atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 402.9 parts per million, surpassing 400 ppm for the first time in the modern record and in ice-core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.
“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity and life on Earth,” the report said.
The report confirmed prior announcements that 2016 was the hottest year since contemporary records began, marking the third year in a row that global records were broken planetwide. Both land and sea-surface temperatures set new highs.
Melting glaciers and polar ice caps swelled the world’s oceans, and global average sea level rose to a record high in 2016 — about 82 millimeters higher than the 1993 average.
Global sea levels have risen for six straight years, with the highest rates of increase seen in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
In the sensitive polar regions, sea ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic hit record lows.
Land temperatures warmed too — average Arctic land surface temperature was 2 C above the 1981-2010 average.