The “heat records” are as alarming as they are unprecedented. Described by the scientists’ fraternity as “the drumbeat of the Anthropocene”, the year that has just gone by was the second hottest on record for the planet’s surface, according to latest research of the World Meteorological Organization. The findings reaffirm the data furnished by the UK Met Office, the University of East Anglia, and Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
A succession of heat records have been broken year after year. Beyond the hi-falutin platitudes at the high table, the analyses reveal the scale of the climate crisis, chiefly that both the past five years and the past decade are the hottest in 150 years. Scientists from a cross-section of meteorological entities have thus emitted a grim signal, and it is fervently to be hoped that the findings will be accorded uppermost priority at the next climate change conference.
There has to be a collective and conscious deviation from the jaw-jaw at Cancun, Copenhagen or Paris that have led to nothing, just nothing. Which is not to ignore the decidedly irrational stance of President Trump. Clearly, the geographical phenomenon of “hot, hotter, hottest” is central to the erratic changes in climate, specifically the increasing outbreak of severe storms, floods, drought and wildfires, notably in Brazil and now Australia.
The new data is for the average global surface air temperature. More than 90 per cent of the heat trapped by human greenhouse gas emissions is absorbed by the oceans, but scientists have now revealed that 2019 has been the warmest yet recorded in the seas, calling it “dire news”. The dangers include extreme weather, failure to prepare for climate change and the destruction of the natural world.
“The last decade was easily the warmest decade in the record and is the first decade more than 1 degree C above late 19th-century temperatures,” is the distressing conclusion of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which produced one of the temperature records. The average temperature in 2019 was about 1.1C above the average from 1850-1900, before large-scale fossil fuel burning began.
The world’s scientists have warned that global heating beyond 1.5 degree C will significantly worsen extreme weather and suffering for hundreds of millions of people. “What is important is the totality of evidence from multiple independent data sets that the Earth is warming, that human activity is driving it and the impacts are clearly being felt,” is Nasa’s caveat to the comity of nations.
“These announcements might sound like a broken record, but what is being heard is the drumbeat of the Anthropocene.” The world bears witness to what they call ‘warming stripes’ representing annual temperatures from 1850 to 2019, with darker reds representing the warmest years. Climate change has been assessed through the prism of historical periodisation. The world, which belongs to the Earth, has been put on notice.