Global Warming on Speed
by Rolly Montpellier
The Warmest February on Record
Global warming is speeding up. The latest NASA data demonstrates that February 2016 was the first month ever that the global average temperature passed the 1.5C mark. The previous record was January 2016 at 1.14C hotter than average. That broke the previous record of December 2015 which was 1.10C. We are entering a new phase of accelerated heating up. We are now in global warming overdrive.
The average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have never before breached the 2C mark. It’s likely the first time since the beginning of human civilization. That mark is broadly interpreted as the threshold above which climate change will begin to become “dangerous” to humanity. And it’s now arrived—albeit very briefly—much more quickly than anticipated. “This is a very worrying result,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.
Almost overnight, the world has moved within arm’s reach of the climate goals negotiated just last December in Paris. One of the major pieces of the Paris Agreement is a signed commitment to hold global warming to a 2C target by the end of the century, with an aspirational goal of 1.5C if possible. Since we’re already nearing 1.5C, the aspirational goal is more delusional then realistic.
The UK Met Office estimates that 2016 will be warmer than 2015 which was warmer than 2014 making the three years the warmest ever recorded. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. February 2016 was the 372nd consecutive month with global temperatures above the 20th century average.
Emissions - Uncharted Territory
For the fourth consecutive year, CO2 levels have risen by more than 2 parts per million, with 2015 showing the largest yearly increase of 3.05 ppm, according to a NOAA report.
We are now pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere 10 times faster than at any point in the past 66 million years, according to new research published in Nature Geoscience.
Antarctica – The Science Daily reports that ice melting rates were 25 times higher than expected in localized areas of Antarctica’s largest ice shelf. New reports are being published almost weekly it seems. Another such study shows how Eastern Antarctica, which contains the ice equivalent of a 20-foot rise in global ocean levels, is melting due to warming ocean waters. “Every degree of heat increase melts an additional 30 feet of ice, each year,” says Robert Bindschadler, a former glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The Arctic – Record Arctic heat is driving new low records for sea ice. Since the beginning of the year, Arctic temperatures have been setting record warm temperatures. The entire region has seen the warmest recorded winter temperatures ever. Scientists observing the start of feedback loops in Greenland fear that the same will cause the Arctic melting to intensify. Melting feeds on itself producing loss of sea ice, generating even more melting, leading to more loss of sea ice, a process known as “Arctic amplification.” It's important to note that melting land ice will make drastic sea level rise an inevitability, but sea ice has no effect on rising sea levels since they float on the ocean (like an ice cube in a glass).
“The alarming rate of change we are now witnessing in our climate as a result of greenhouse gas emissions is unprecedented in modern records,” says Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization. The dangerous climate future has arrived.
Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of Below2C.org
. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a Blogger and a Climate Activist. He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa), the Ethical Team (as an influencer) and Global Population Speakout.