Earth has been on a clear warming trend for decades now, and 2019 did nothing to change that. New data released by NASA and NOAA illustrate the accelerating pace of climate change. 2019 was the second hottest on record, but more troubling, it also made the last decade the hottest period since record-keeping began.
The new data released this week confirm that the past five years have all been among the five hottest since record-keeping began in the late 19th century — 2016 remains the hottest ever. Furthermore, 19 of the 20 warmest have all occurred in the last two decades. Even going back further with the aid of clues from sediment and ice, it is clear this rate of change is not part of any natural cycle.
The data shows that no country on Earth set a record cold temperature in 2019, but 36 of them set new records for the hottest. 2019 led to record high temperatures in places like Mexico, the southeastern US, Australia, Central Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa. NASA and NOAA predict that 2020 has a 95 percent chance of being one of the five hottest years on record. Global temperature is now one degree Celsius above the pre-industrial average, and some places have consistently doubled that.
Researcher Kate Marvel from NASA and Columbia University points to an obvious correlation between global temperature increases and the industrial revolution. That’s when people began pumping massive volumes of carbon into the atmosphere via fossil fuels, and we know that carbon-containing compounds are potent greenhouse gasses.
Governments around the world have pledged to work to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels as part of the Paris Climate Agreement. However, carbon levels are still rising, and few countries are making the necessary investments in renewable energy necessary to stave off disaster. In fact, the current US administration has announced its intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement. The US has already enacted policy changes that are in opposition to that framework.
We can argue over the precise causes and potential remedies for global climate change, but the data is incontrovertible — Earth is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate. The planet is already stressed supporting billions of people, and we can’t afford the widespread disruption global climate change will bring. The researchers agree that it’s up to us how the coming decades unfold, but things aren’t looking good.
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