2016 Climate Change Update

This article from Yale Climate Change uses six graphs of global statistics to elaborate the assertion that “The historical significance of the year 2016 for the planet’s climate is likely to go well beyond just the election of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th President. The climate will have the last word.” 

CO2 emissions and concentrations have increased from below 320 to over 400 ppm between 1960 and 2016; human-made emissions of CO2 at the same time have increased from just over 2 gigatonnes to 10 gigatonnes.

“Six different groups around the world provide estimates of global surface temperatures: NASA, NOAA, the UK’s Hadley Centre/CRU, the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA), Berkeley Earth, and the researchers Cowtan and Way. All agree that 2016 was the warmest year on record, though they differ a bit on the margin. All also agree that 15 of the past 16 years were the warmest ever recorded.”

“Zooming in on the period after 1970, one sees a record of largely unabated warming, with temperatures increasing steadily accompanied by some short-term variability driven by El Niño and La Niña events, and also by major volcanic eruptions like Pinatubo in 1992.” A 1 degree Celsius increase in average surface temperature has been recorded in the last half century.

President Trump’s and the US Congress reversal of US policy on climate change and the use of fossil fuels appears to ignore the scientific data reported in this update.

This blog from Jeremy Williams “Who is responsible for Climate Change?” outlines with another interesting graph that clearly illustrates the leading role of the USA and rich countries. It also allocates the responsibility for CO2 emissions to populations within the countries in the graph, based on their per capita range of incomes. The extreme carbon emission inequality data are taken from an Oxfam briefing.

Williams concludes: “There are a number of things to draw out of this. The most obvious is that the richer people are, the more they tend to consume and the higher their carbon footprint tends to be. When you remember that climate change impacts fall first and most heavily on the poorest and most vulnerable, the injustice is stark. That’s true within countries as well as internationally.”

“The richest are most responsible for climate change, but the least affected. As I’ve said before, I reckon that when people look back on climate change in a hundred years time, they will have similar questions to the ones we ask about the age of slavery – how did the majority of people think that was okay? Why did it take so long for people to understand their moral responsibilities?”

This additional article argues that “the prospects of averting a fully-blown climate catastrophe are narrowing. According to some counts, we may only have a little over a year of emissions-as-usual left before we lock in 1.5°C warming — beyond which lies global chaos. Only slightly higher chances exist for staying below 2°C warming, as concentrations of carbon dioxide have surpassed 405 ppmThe two additional links in the above extract show how unlikely will be the UN Climate Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2C target set at the Paris Summit.


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