2016: Earth’s hottest year on record

Feb 03, 2017
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By Dr Moses Amweelo

Global warming has had a particular dramatic impact on the Arctic, which has been transformed by significantly warmer temperatures, lower levels of sea ice, and more open water in recent years.

The average Arctic sea ice extent the measurement scientists use to represent the area of ocean where there is at least some sea ice was 17.7 percent below the averages from 1981 to 2010, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

That’s the lowest November extent since the NOAA began keeping records in 1979. “For the people in the Arctic, no one has to tell them an abrupt climate change has hit,” Paul Mayewski, professor at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, told CBS News in an interview last year.

Continued melting of polar ice could lead to catastrophic sea level rise and flooding on coastlines around the world. Many people in the world could become “climate refugees” by the end of this century if the worst projections come to pass, one study this year warned.

Scientists say human activities are directly linked to Arctic warming: driving a gas-powered car a long distance produces enough carbon pollution to melt about a square foot of Arctic sea ice during the critical month of September, research shows.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report, published at the global climate summit in Morocco, found the global temperature in 2016 is running 1.2C above pre-industrial levels.

This is perilously close to 1.5C target included as an aim of the Paris climate agreement last December.

The El Nino weather phenomenon helped push temperatures even higher in early 2016 but the global warming caused by the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities remains the strongest factor.

The year 2016 was a milestone in the continued warming of the planet. From unstable agriculture to the drought in California to melting ice sheets to extreme weather events and heat waves, climate change has disrupted virtually every corner of the world. It’s impossible to exhaustively list all the ways in which climate change was felt in 2016, but here’s a guide to understanding the year that was for the planet: A carbon dioxide milestone.

“In the centuries to come, history books will likely look back on September 2016 as a major milestone for the world’s climate,” Brian Kahn of Climate Central wrote earlier this year.

That’s because, during September, a month in which atmospheric carbon dioxide — a heat-trapping greenhouse gas —is usually at its lowest, the monthly value failed to drop below 400 parts per million.

The 400 ppm mark has sad significance in the climate community, as it has long been considered a point of no return for the atmosphere by scientists.

Last year (2016) was poised to be the hottest year in the 137-year official record, with global temperatures climbing even higher than record-breaking 2015, according to data released in November from the WMO.

Temperatures were particularly high in the first half of the year due to the power of El Niño.

Around the world, instability in agriculture. The continued warming of the planet in 2016 is having a destabilizing impact on agriculture worldwide.

Those disruptions were particularly felt in coffee production, which supports an estimated 120 million of some of the world’s poorest people in Africa, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia.

In the mountains of eastern Uganda, a coffee-rich region, growers struggled to protect their crops which require just the right altitude and temperature and the right amounts of rain and sunshine from the effects of global warming.

Faced with headaches such as new pests and diseases, and beans rendered inedible from too much sunshine, many small-scale family farmers can no longer rely on coffee production to feed their families, pay for medical care, and send their kids to school.

In Namibia farmers at Etunda and Musese irrigation schemes have experienced bollworm destroys their crops.

According to the Etunda manager Albertus Viljoen: “more than 30 hectares of maize have been destroyed, while more were under threat’’. Furthermore research suggests that a hotter Earth resulting from global warming will lead to more frequent and larger fires.

The fires release “particulates’’ tiny particles that become airborne and greenhouse gases that warm the planet.

In 2012, 50% of the Nyae Nyae area (Otjozondjupa Region) was burnt, resulting in the loss of life as well as damage to rangeland, wildlife and the environment through carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The hot September and Octomber fires are particularly damaging and uncontrollable, causing widespread devastation because of the dry vegetation (The Namibian, 26 January 2017).

Experts project that by the middle of this century, climate change could rule out as much as half of the land now used for coffee production worldwide, CBS News’ Mark Phillips reported in December.

Warming oceans in 2016 caused the largest die-off of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, scientists said in November.

The reef’s coral cover suffered significant bleaching this year due to the El Nino weather effect and continued climate change.

Scientists have concluded that human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, is the major driving factor in global warming and it can be slowed, and stopped, with practical actions that yield a cleaner, healthier atmosphere.

Medvedev said: ‘’What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of states, all heads of social organizations, need to work together (in Namibia context in line with Harambee Prosperity Plan) in order to take a more energetic approach to counter the global changes to the climate”.

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