A massive new report by more than 450 scientists, confirms that the Earth warmed to a new record in 2016, driven by a record increase in carbon dioxide levels.
The 27th annual “State of the Climate” report, led by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), stands as the first comprehensive rebuke by the nation’s and world’s climate scientists to the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” and reaffirmed last week that he intends to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, which remains the best hope for America and the world to avert catastrophic impacts.
“Surface temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, two of the more publicly recognized indicators of global-scale climate change, set new highs during 2016,” the report explains, “as did several surface and near-surface indicators and essential climate variables.”
NOAA’s news release explains that 2016 set several major new climate records — all of which topped records previously set the year before:
- Greenhouse gases were the highest on record.
- Global surface temperature was the highest on record.
- Average sea surface temperature was the highest on record.
- Global sea level was the highest on record.
There were other records, too. For instance, 2016 saw record Arctic land temperatures, record temperatures for lakes around the world, record levels of serious drought globally, and “a record low value” for the “mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which has the capacity to contribute ~7 m [23 feet] to sea level rise.”
The report leaves no doubt as to the cause of the warming temperatures and other indicators of climate change: human-caused carbon pollution. Indeed, the report opens by explaining that “the dominant greenhouse gases released into Earth’s atmosphere — carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide — all continued to increase and reach new record high abundances.”
In particular, “the 3.5 ± 0.1 ppm [parts per million] rise in global annual mean carbon dioxide from 2015 to 2016 was the largest annual increase ever observed in the 58-year measurement record.” This remarkable surge brought global CO2 levels to their new record level, 402.9 ppm, “surpassing 400 ppm for the first time in the modern atmospheric measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.”
While none of this will come as a surprise to anyone who follows either the news or climate science, all of these findings undercut the statements and actions made by President Donald Trump and the climate science deniers with whom he has surrounded himself.
Significantly, the report underscores a crucial reason why climate inaction is so dangerous: The rate of warming is accelerating. The authors explain that “the global sea surface temperature trend for the 21st century to-date of +0.162°C decade is much higher than the longer term 1950–2016 trend of +0.100°C decade.” And it is roughly double the trend of surface temperature warning since 1901.
Not only is warming speeding up, but it is happening even faster up North. “Arctic air temperatures continue to increase at double the rate of the global temperature increase, and this increase can be linked directly to changes in the Arctic environmental system,” the report found. According to the researchers, “the average Arctic land surface temperature was 3.6°F (2.0°C) above the 1981–2010 average, breaking the previous record of 2007, 2011, and 2015 by 1.4°F (0.8°C), representing a 6.3°F (3.5°C) increase since records began in 1900.”
To repeat, the Arctic is already a full 6.3°F warmer than it was in 1900. So we should all take serious the projection from the final draft of the National Climate Assessment we’ve been reporting on this week, which warns that continued inaction could lead to upwards of 18°F warming by century’s end.