The hottest decade ever recorded is how the WMO, NASA and NOAA all described the last ten years. Find out why we’re past the point where we should have to convince anyone of the truth of the climate crisis.
I was thinking about what to write about today for the Earth category when a news item sidetracked me. I was saddened and surprised to see disgraced former Canadian publisher Conrad Black say that “scientific research had not justified the ‘level of alarm’ we are witnessing about a warming planet.” He tried to claim that we haven’t had any global warming in the first 20 years of this century, which is demonstrably false.
I also saw a meme on social media that compared Greta Thunberg with debunked climate-contrarian Judith Curry. It’s odd that they would pit someone with a Ph.D. against a high school kid. I don’t know why they didn’t pick any of Curry’s peers instead. They all say she’s dead wrong.
That news and meme told that we still need to convince a few people of three things. Climate change is real, it’s caused by humans and it’s an emergency. So here I am writing about the climate one more time.
2019 WAS THE HOTTEST YEAR ON RECORD
Last week, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told us that 2019 was the second warmest year on record. It’s true that 2016 was slightly hotter than 2019, but 2016 had a strong El Nino effect while 2019 didn’t.
The WMO also found that the 2010s were the hottest decade since people have been keeping temperature records. Not only that, each decade since the 80s has been the hottest decade for which we have records.
The global average temperature for 2019 was 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than before we started burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases. It’s no surprise that greenhouse gas emissions also hit a new record. Carbon dioxide (C02) emissions are up to 407.8 parts per million (ppm). That’s way past the 400 ppm barrier and it’s 147% of pre-industrial levels.
“HEADING TOWARDS A TEMPERATURE INCREASE OF 3˚TO 5˚C”
WMO Chief Petteri Taalas told the UN, “On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, we are heading towards a temperature increase of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of century.” As we keep hearing, the goal is to keep global warming below 1.5˚ C and certainly below 2˚ C to keep climate change at bay. (That’s 2.7 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.)
These don’t sound like huge differences in temperature, but when it comes to living things, they are. What’s more, it’s not the temperature itself that’s the problem. It’s the effect that the hottest decade ever has had on nature.
Over the last year, our planet experienced melting sea ice, record sea-level rise, increasing ocean heat and acidification and extreme weather like heat waves.
2020 HAS STARTED OUT WHERE 2019 LEFT OFF
Mr. Tallas continued, “The year 2020 has started out where 2019 left off – with high-impact weather and climate-related events. Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems and the environment.”
We’ve learned that the warming trend from greenhouse gas emissions starts in the ocean. That’s why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) takes a huge interest in the climate crisis.
In the United States this week, both NASA and NOAA got the same result. NOAA reported in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences that 2019 average annual ocean temperatures are at an all-time high. The past five years have all been the hottest years on record we’ve also had the hottest decade on record for the oceans.
PAST FIVE YEARS HAVE ALL BEEN THE HOTTEST ON RECORD
When water gets warmer, it gets bigger which raises the sea level. Warming also makes glaciers and ice sheets melt and that water runs into the ocean, raising it even more.
The ocean absorbs about 22% of our CO2 emissions. That’s a good thing in one way because if that C02 stayed in the air, this hottest decade would have been even hotter.
As usual, that benefit comes with a price. When we add C02 to the ocean, that lowers its pH, and that causes what scientists call ocean acidification. Lower pH numbers mean things are more acidic.
CORAL GETS BLEACHED AND CAN’T BUILD REEFS
When the ocean’s pH goes down, a lot of marine creatures can’t calcify properly. Mollusks and crustaceans can’t form normal shells and coral gets bleached and can’t build reefs.
In ecology, everything is interwoven. Coral reefs are like rainforests in that they host a wide variety of life. When we lose coral reefs we lose whole ecosystems, not just the coral itself.
All of these factors on land and sea have led to a wide range of high impact events. The hottest decade on the books has brought us heat and cold waves, heavy rains in some places and droughts in others, tropical cyclones, other severe storms and wildfires.
820 MILLION PEOPLE SUFFER FROM HUNGER
We were winning the fight against global hunger over the last ten years but now it’s coming back. Over 820 million people suffer from hunger in today’s world and a lot of that is due to having caused the hottest decade ever recorded.
We’re way past the point where we should have to convince anyone of the truth of the climate crisis. Everyone needs to find out more about it and start taking action. A good place to start is David Archer and Stefan Rhamstorf’s book The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change.
We always have more to learn if we dare to know.
World Meteorological Organization
WMO Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019
Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019
Alberta needs to wake up to a rapidly changing world – and to stop listening to the denier
The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change
Climate Crisis Becomes Undeniable
Climate Justice and Human Rights
Paris Agreement on Climate Change – What’s the Deal?
Greta Thunberg: “How Dare You?”