2016 will be the hottest year on record, UN says

World Meteorological Organisation figures show global temperature is 1.2C above pre-industrial levels and will set a new high for the third year running
Damian Carrington The Guardian 14 Nov 16;

2016 will very likely be the hottest year on record and a new high for the third year in a row, according to the UN. It means 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have been this century.

The scorching temperatures around the world, and the extreme weather they drive, mean the impacts of climate change on people are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected, according to scientists.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, published on Monday at the global climate summit in Morocco, found the global temperature in 2016 is running 1.2C above pre-industrial levels. This is perilously close to to the 1.5C target included as an aim of the Paris climate agreement last December.

The El Niño weather phenomenon helped push temperatures even higher in early 2016 but the global warming caused by the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities remains the strongest factor.

“Another year. Another record,” said WMO secretary-general, Petteri Taalas. “The extra heat from the powerful El Niño event has disappeared. The heat from global warming will continue.”

“Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen,” he said. “‘Once in a generation’ heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular.”

The WMO said human-induced global warming had contributed to at least half the extreme weather events studied in recent years, with the risk of extreme heat increasing by 10 times in some cases.

“It is almost as if mother nature is making a statement,” said climate scientist Michael Mann, at Penn State University in the US. “Just as one of the planet’s two largest emitters of carbon has elected a climate change denier [Donald Trump] - who has threatened to pull out of the Paris accord - to the highest office, she reminds us that she has the final word.”

“Climate change is not like other issues that can be postponed from one year to the next,” he said. “The US and world are already behind; speed is of the essence, because climate change and its impacts are coming sooner and with greater ferocity than anticipated.”

The record-smashing heat led to searing heatwaves across the year: a new high of 42.7C was recorded in Pretoria, South Africa in January; Mae Hong Son in Thailand saw 44.6C on 28 April; Phalodi in India reached 51.0C in May and Mitribah in Kuwait recorded 54.0C in July. Parts of Arctic Russia also saw extreme warming - 6C to 7C above average

Arctic ice reached its equal second lowest extent in the satellite record in September while warm oceans saw coral mortality of up to 50% in parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Extreme weather and climate related events have damaged farming and food security, affecting more than 60 million people, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere has also broken records in 2016, with May seeing the highest monthly value yet - 407.7 ppm - at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii.

The forecast for 2017 is another very hot year, but probably not a record breaker.

“As the El Niño wanes, we don’t anticipate that 2017 will be another record-breaking year,” said Dr Peter Stott at the UK’s Met Office. “But 2017 is likely to be warmer than any year prior to the last two decades because of the underlying extent of [human-caused] warming due to the increasing atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.”

However, another analysis released at the UN summit in Morocco showed that global carbon emissions have barely grown in the last three years, following decades of strong growth. The main reason is China burning less coal.

Professor Corinne Le Quéré, at University of East Anglia in the UK, who led the analysis, said: “This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth. This is a great help for tackling climate change but it is not enough. Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing.”

The WMO’s temperature analysis combines the three main records, from the Met Office, Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and stretches back to 1880.


2016 set to break heat record despite slowdown in emissions
KARL RITTER Associated Press Yahoo News 15 Nov 16;

MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) — Global temperatures are soaring toward a record high this year, the U.N. weather agency said Monday, while another report showed emissions of a key global warming gas have flattened out in the past three years.

The reports injected a mix of gloom and hope at U.N. climate talks in Marrakech this week.

"Another year. Another record. The high temperatures we saw in 2015 are set to be beaten in 2016," said Petteri Taalas, the head of the World Meteorological Organization.

WMO's preliminary data through October showed world temperatures, boosted by the El Nino phenomenon, are 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

That's getting close to the limit set by the global climate agreement adopted in Paris last year. It calls for limiting the temperature rise since the industrial revolution to 2 degrees C or even 1.5 degrees C.

WMO said 16 of the 17 hottest years have occurred this century. The only exception was 1998, which was also an El Nino year.

Taalas said parts of Arctic Russia saw temperatures soaring 6-7 degrees C above average. "We are used to measuring temperature records in fractions of a degree, and so this is different," he said.

Environmental groups and climate scientists said the report underscores the need to quickly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for warming the planet.

Another report released Monday delivered some positive news, showing global CO2 emissions have flattened out in the past three years. However, the authors of the study cautioned it's unclear whether the slowdown, mainly caused by declining coal use in China, is a permanent trend.

"It is far too early to proclaim we have reached a peak," said co-author Glen Peters, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.

The study, published in the journal Earth System Science Data, says global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry are projected to grow just 0.2 percent this year.

That would mean emissions have leveled off at about 36 billion metric tons in the past three years even though the world economy has expanded, suggesting the historical bonds between economic gains and emissions growth may have been severed.

"This could be the turning point we have hoped for," said David Ray, a professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved with the study. "To tackle climate change those bonds must be broken and here we have the first signs that they are at least starting to loosen."

Chinese emissions were down 0.7 percent in 2015 and are projected to fall 0.5 percent in 2016, the researchers said, though noting that Chinese energy statistics have been plagued by inconsistencies.

Peters said it's unclear whether the Chinese slowdown was due to a restructuring of its economy or a sign of economic instability, but the unexpected emissions reduction "give us hope that the world's biggest emitter can deliver much more ambitious emission reductions."

China, which accounts for almost 30 percent of global carbon pollution, pledged to peak its emissions around 2030 as part of the climate pact adopted in Paris last year. Many analysts say China's peak is likely to come much earlier — and may already have occurred.

"A few more years of data is needed to confirm this," said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.

Even if China's emissions have stabilized, growth in India and other developing countries could push global CO2 levels higher again. India's emissions rose 5 percent in 2015, the study said.

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States — the world's No. 2 carbon polluter — could also have an impact.

U.S. emissions fell 2.6 percent last year and are projected to drop 1.7 percent this year, as natural gas and renewables displace coal in power generation, the study showed. But it's unclear whether those reductions will continue under Trump, who has pledged to roll back the Obama administration's environmental policies, including the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

Obama's climate envoy, Jonathan Pershing, said Monday that China and other countries would move forward on climate action even if the U.S. reverses course under Trump.

"I'm hearing the same from the Europeans," he said. "I'm hearing the same from the Brazilians. I'm hearing the same from Mexico, and from Canada, and from smaller nations like Costa Rica and from Colombia."

Some researchers stressed that it's not enough for global emissions to stabilize, saying they need to drop toward zero for the world to meet the goals of the Paris deal.

"Worryingly, the reductions pledged by the nations under the Paris Agreement are not sufficient to achieve this," said climate scientist Chris Rapley of University College London.

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Associated Press writer Samia Errazouki in Marrakech contributed to this report.

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