As you probably know, I care a lot about climate change, and I keep up with climate change news pretty closely. While almost every new indicator of climate change on a day-by-day basis is usually reporting something bad, the reports I started seeing this morning alarmed and disturbed me to a much greater degree than usual. NOAA, NASA and other climate change watchdogs have come out with statistics on climate for the month of February 2016, and they’re nothing short of terrifying. Not only was last month the hottest February on record, but it was the hottest month, period–adjusted seasonally–in the history of climate change observations, which go back to 1880. The previous hottest month in climate history? January 2016. Furthermore, carbon in the atmosphere has spiked astronomically, and the scientific data indicates that warming is absolutely exploding everywhere, far in excess of what even the most pessimistic scientific estimates foretold just a short time ago. In other words, climate change is getting worse across the globe–very, very fast.
It’s impossible to appreciate these trends without looking at charts, graphs and statistics. The header image at the top of this article is a NASA-generated map that shows temperature anomalies for February 2016. An “anomaly” is when a temperature reading exceeds a statistical average, in this case the average temperatures as measured over the period 1951 to 1980. As you can see, the deviation from the norm is grotesque and alarming, especially in the Arctic. February 2016 was much hotter than it should have been, by any indication. But even this is an incomplete picture. The period of 1951 to 1980 was a period of steady warming caused by manmade processes. If one measures the baseline as being temperatures before the Industrial Revolution, instead of measuring it during a period of global warming, the anomaly is even greater. This is the point being made by climate scientist Michael Mann in the tweet below.
— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) March 14, 2016
What does this mean? Well, in last year’s Paris Protocol, many countries including the United States agreed that we must limit overall warming to 1.5° C above pre-industrial averages. Michael Mann’s point is that the February data indicates we have already exceeded this level by a degree. The Paris numbers talk about a 1.5° or 2° C warming by the end of the 21st century. We’re at the beginning of year 16 of the 21st century and we’ve already blown past this number.
Why is 1.5° C significant? Because that’s the level at which global warming catastrophes will be so big and prevalent that they begin to threaten humanity’s stable existence on this planet. So where is the evidence that this is happening now? Go here, to this article from WeatherUnderground.com, and scroll to the end to see the climate-related disasters that struck in February: a drought in Vietnam, another one in Zimbabwe, a cyclone in Fiji, and greatly accelerated coral bleaching in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The disasters are, proportional to the size of the economies of these countries, equivalent to five Hurricane Katrinas in one month if they happened in the United States.
This graph represents carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. It tells the same alarming story as the other indications in this article.
I also recommend reading this story at ClimateCrocks on the latest data. It will chill you.
It’s no longer possible to be “too alarmist” about climate change. I’m going to summarize below what this all means, and I’m going to put it in big bold letters so that nobody can mistake what I’m saying.
Climate change is happening now and it is happening much faster than predicted.
Human activity is causing this catastrophic change. Its not natural, it’s not the Sun, and it’s never happened before.
Climate change is having catastrophic effects, right now, in various parts of the world.
We, the United States and other advanced industrialized economies, must take action now to reduce carbon emissions–or our planet will become unlivable, much sooner than anyone anticipates.
This is the most important issue in the entire world right now. More important than terrorism, economy, rights, elections, international conflicts, or any other issue.
I don’t know how to make it plainer than that.