There were warning signs earlier with exceptional droughts, heatwaves and unseasonal weather but the UN weather agency stated that 2016 will almost certainly be the hottest year ever.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said this year would be the warmest since records began in the late 19th-century, with average surface temperatures 1.2C above pre-industrial times. Sixteen of the 17 hottest years recorded have been in this century.
Two factors are in play here: man-made climate change from the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean. El Niño is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns. The cycle begins when warm water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean shifts eastward along the equator toward the coast of South America.
Extreme weather events 2016
The effects of El Nino have finished but temperature records continue to be broken and weather and climate related events are causing concern:
- The most damaging weather event in 2016 was Hurricane Matthew, which killed more than 500 to 1000 people in Haiti, 49 people in the United States and caused $12 billion of damage in the region.
- The Yangtze basin in China had its worst summer floods since 1999, killing 310 people and causing an estimated £11bn in damage.
- The UK experienced unprecedented flooding in late 2015 and early 2016 which damaged 15,000 homes and businesses.
- Perth, Australia experienced a heatwave in February, tying with 1933 with four straight days of temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (people were frying eggs in their yard and baking cup cakes in their cars!).
- Ocean acidification (from dissolved CO2) has severely damaged Australia’s great barrier reef.
- Flooding Bangladesh in July to August 2016 killed 60 and affect 2.5 million homes.
- In May 2016, floods in Sri Lanka killed over 200 and displaced many.
- In Western Europe, record temperatures were recorded in a heatwave across Western Europe (the UK escaped the worst) in July 2016. The last major heatwave in 2003 is estimated to have killed 70,000.
While it is difficult to make absolute connection between these events and climate change, they are consistent with rising C02 levels.
We’re not sure whether the new President-elect of the US will carry through his threats to row back on the their position on climate change but the evidence of real damage is mounting. Inaction will be more expensive in the future than taking action now.
Those countries such as China and India building strong industries in renewable energy will simply leave the rest behind.