Average global warming reached an alarming new record in 2016 as science confirmed the hottest year on Earth since people began collecting reliable records—1.3ºC above pre-industrial temperatures, very close to the 1.5ºC that countries established as an aspirational limit under the Paris Agreement and ratified last year.
The global average surface temperature last year was 14.8ºC, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, operated jointly by the European Union and the European Space Agency, Reuters reports. Temperatures broke the previous record, set only in 2015, by almost 0.2ºC, “boosted by a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and by a natural El Niño weather event in the Pacific Ocean.”
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“The Arctic was the region showing the sharpest rise in temperatures, while many other areas of the globe, including parts of Africa and Asia, also suffered unusual heat.”
In a post on Medium.com, activist group Demand Climate Justice itemized many of the costly and damaging effects already being observed from warming that is still well below the 2.0ºC the world’s nations set in Paris as their formal goal.
High on its list was “the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, ground zero of the tar sands industry, devastated by wildfires and subsequently hit by torrential rains” last summer. A larger human disaster looms in sub-Saharan Africa, however, where three years of exceptional drought have driven hundreds of thousands of people to famine in Somalia and Namibia, while more than half the children in southern Madagascar suffer from nutritional deficiencies.
On a more optimistic note, the same post observes that “solutions are within reach,” with renewables accounting for more than half of all new energy capacity installed last year and investors beginning to shift their focus from fossil to clean energy.