2015 the Hottest Year on Record
21 January 2016 at 11:25 am
Human-made climate change contributed to making 2015 the hottest year on record globally, according to two new major reports.
The US space agency, NASA, and Australian Not for Profit, the Climate Council, released separate reports based on data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showing that the average temperature across the planet was 0.90 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average, almost 20 per cent higher than the previous record.
The Climate Council’s report, Hottest Year on Record (Again), said that the 2015 temperature marked the largest margin by which an annual temperature record has been broken. Prior to this year, the largest margin occurred in 1998, when the annual temperature surpassed the record set in 1997 by 0.12C.
The Climate Council said in an Australian context, October maximum and minimum temperatures were the highest on record. It said the national average temperature for October was 2.89C above average, the warmest monthly average temperature anomaly since records began.
The Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen said the climate was sending the world an alarming wake-up call.
“The sheer number of records broken in 2015 is staggering and is more clear evidence of a climate on steroids. This marks the fourth time in the 21st century a new record high annual temperature has been set and also marks the 39th consecutive year that the annual temperature has been above the 20th century average,” Professor Steffen said.
“Record sea surface temperatures are triggering the world’s third ever mass coral bleaching event. The Great Barrier Reef has already suffered several coral bleaching events since the 1970s and is at risk again as the sea surface temperatures around Australia remain well above average.
“Unseasonably early heat waves across the country, driven by climate change and the strong El Nino event, caused an early outbreak of the bushfire season and drove major agricultural losses as large areas of crops failed and had to be cut for hay. The cost of these losses is expected to be in the order of $1-2 billion in Victoria alone.”
Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie, said the statistics highlighted that Australia lacked a robust plan to rapidly and deeply cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“We are staring down the barrel of what a future with climate change looks like – more bushfires, more heatwaves and more devastating impacts on Australians,” McKenzie said.
“And yet despite Australia being one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, not only is Australia at the bottom of the OECD countries in terms of our emission reduction pledges, we are struggling to meet even this weak level of ambition.
“Our emissions are still going up and Australia’s renewable energy industry is still stagnant after the Renewable Energy Target was cut.
“If we are serious about protecting Australians from worsening extreme weather events and doing our part in the global effort to bring climate change under control, we urgently need a clear national plan for reducing emissions rapidly and transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Coal cannot be part of that plan.”
Scientists from NASA agreed with the NOAA’s findings that 2015 was the warmest year on record, following an independent analysis of the data.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said urgent action on climate change was needed.
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth,” Bolden said.
“Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act on climate.”
NASA said the changes in global temperature were largely driven by “increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere”.
In addition to growing environmental effects, the Climate Council said global warming was continuing to contribute to deaths around the world.
It said India experienced its worst extreme heat event in a decade in May last year’ when for a 10 day period, average daily maximum temperatures in the capital city of New Delhi were over 43C, around 4C above average. Over 2,000 deaths were attributed to the heat event, making it the world’s fifth most deadly extreme heat event in history.
Pakistan was also struck with extreme heat in June, with temperatures rising to 45C in Karachi. The heat was estimated to have contributed to 1,233 deaths and to 65,000 people being treated for heatstroke.
In December last year, leaders from 195 countries meeting in Paris agreed to an international accord aimed slowing the pace of global warming to well below 2C.