According to a UN report, 2016 is about to become the hottest year in recorded history as global temperatures soared in recent months. The news came as a surprise as greenhouse gas emission levels haven’t budged since 2013.
Attendants at the U.N. climate talks in Marrakech had mixed feelings about the findings. Lead author of the report Petteri Taalas noted 2015 is about to lose its title as the hottest year on record.
“Another year. Another record,”
quipped Taalas, who leads the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.
El Nino Years are Hotter than Usual
The WMO report which includes data on global temperatures through October showed what caused the surge. Experts explained El Nino pushed temperatures to 1.2 degrees C/2.2 degrees F above preindustrial readings. Last year, world leaders agreed in Paris to rein in the temperature rise to 1.5 or 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
According to the WMO, there have been 17 hottest years on record, and 16 occurred over the last 100 years. In addition, nearly all record-smashers were tied to a powerful El Nino event. The only exception was 1998. UN researchers said that in the Arctic Russia temperatures jumped 6 to 7 degrees C in just one century.
Taalas explained the situation is alarming since climate scientists traditionally measure temperature records in fractions of a degree. Environmental groups also commented on the news. They said governments should further focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
CO2 Levels Unchanged Since 2013
A separate report released this week was less gloomy. It showed that CO2 levels did not change in the last three years. Study authors explained the change is mainly due to China’s restrictions on coal use. But they declined to say whether the slowdown would be permanent.
Lead author Glen Peters said the slowdown doesn’t mean we reached a peak. The research paper also shows that global CO2 emissions should climb just 0.2 percent in 2016.
The news means emissions have flattened out at 36 billion metric tons over the last 36 months even though the world economy experience growth. This means that the historical association between economic performance and emissions levels may no longer be valid.
Prof. David Ray, a carbon management expert at the University of Edinburgh, commented on the findings. He said it is crucial to severe the association to tackle climate change. The researcher thinks this could mark a “turning point.”
China the Biggest Emitter
Last year, China’s emissions slipped 0.7 percent and should fall 0.5 percent more this year. Experts cautioned, however, that China’s official statistics may not be very accurate. Researchers cannot tell how China reduced the emissions. It may have something to do with both economic restructuring efforts and economic slowdown. Experts agree that China, which is the largest emitter, could do better.
About 30 percent of CO2 emission stem from China. The Asian country pledged to cap the emissions in 14 years’ time under the Paris deal. But that moment could come much earlier, experts think, and it might be already here.
“A few more years of data is needed to confirm this,”
said a spokesperson from Climate Analytics.
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