Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The non-profit collective of high-powered scientists, Climate Central, has released a new report demonstrating that the past 12 months have been the hottest on record, and inferring that they are the hottest in 125,000 years.
They find that during the past year, 73% of the world’s population suffered through at least one month of sweltering temperatures that were so torrid because humans have been burning coal, fossil gas and petroleum for over a century in gargantuan amounts. Some 25% of humans experienced at least one 5-day heat wave caused by global heating.
While this will be an El Nino year and so there will be extra heat on top of the carbon-induced warming, these scientists maintain that the full effect of El Nino hadn’t been felt by the end of October, so mostly they are reporting disasters caused by human-induced climate change.
They also found that the average temperature of the earth’s surface has already reached 1.3 °C (2.34 °F) above the pre-industrial average.
Climate scientists fear that if we go beyond 1.5 °C, the climate may go chaotic in ways that will be challenging for industrial civilization. For instance, enormous hurricanes and cyclones may flatten all the electricity poles, frequent flooding and storm surges may strike low-lying coastal areas, wildfires may endanger everyone living near forest cover, and long-term drought may ruin agriculture in some places. We forget how dependent our civilization is on it being relatively cool, as it was when the industrial revolution took place in the mid-eighteenth century. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries people used to have frost fairs on the frozen Thames River in London. The last time any part of the Thames froze over was 1963.
We’ve already seen summers when it got too hot in Phoenix for airplanes to take off. Hot air is thinner and doesn’t provide the wings enough lift.
The only way to avoid severe challenges to keeping up civilization is for the world to stop burning petroleum, fossil gas and coal immediately. If we don’t, we are bequeathing our children and grandchildren a host of difficult challenges that may detract from their quality of life or even pose a threat to their lives.
According to the report, in the past six months, 92% of humans on earth experience a heat wave lasting at least 5 days that would not have occurred without human burning of fossil fuels.
Climate change affects different regions differently. The Arctic is warming 4 times faster that the global average, and the Middle East is heating up twice as fast as the global average.
In the past year, Jamaica, Guatamala and Rwanda have been especially affected. The authors write, “on the average day, the average person in Jamaica experienced temperatures made more than four times more likely by human-caused climate change.” Islands in the Caribbean and the South Pacific suffered more than the average with extra hot days caused by climate change.
Among the G20 wealthiest countries in the world, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Indonesia saw the most temperature rise in the first half of the year, but in the second half they were joined by India, Italy, Japan, Brazil, France, and Turkey in suffering from climate change-driven high temperatures.
The team found that of the 700 cities they looked at, Houston, Texas, had the longest streak of extremely high temperatures, at 22 days. Some 12 cities had heat streaks of 5 days or more, caused or intensified by climate change. They were located for the most part in Texas, Florida and Louisiana.
The team found that in the United States, climate change was implicated in 24 extreme weather events during the past year that left nearly 400 people dead and caused $67 billion in damage.