As Trump Heads to Washington, Global Warming Nears Tipping Point
By Joe Ryan, Bloomberg News
Global temperatures continue to shatter records this year, rising to within less than one degree of the level that scientists say would be catastrophic, according to the United Nations.
During the first nine months of the year, temperatures were 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above those recorded at the end of the 1800s, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said in a report Monday. If the Earth warms more than 2 degrees beyond those pre-industrial levels, scientists have warned that climate change could hit an irreversible tipping point, unleashing a torrent of floods, droughts and storms.
The WMO’s findings, based on 136 years of data from three scientific agencies, come days after the U.S. presidential election of Donald Trump, who has said climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. The Republican has vowed to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, which scientists say is a crucial step toward keeping the globe from crossing the 2-degree threshold.
“Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “‘Once-in-a-generation’ heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular.”
Violent weather has reverberated around the globe this year. The deadliest storm has been Hurricane Matthew, which ripped through the Caribbean and the U.S. Southeast in October and killed at least 1,000 people in Haiti alone. In Asia, Typhoon Lionrock swept through Japan, Russia, China and North Korea, killing more than 100 and destroying thousands of homes. And in Africa, droughts in Malawi, Angola, Zambia and elsewhere have led to food shortages that could impact an estimated 17 million people by early 2017.
The WMO reported this month that the Earth experienced its hottest five years on record from 2011 through 2015, and preliminary data for October indicates that 2016 will be the hottest year on record. The report uses data from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.K.’s Met Office and the University of East Anglia.