Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Last year was hottest on record

Reuters, CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA

Last year was the Earth’s hottest on record — evidence that human activity is disrupting the climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the air — two US government agencies said on Friday.

The White House said the studies, by NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed climate change is underway and that action is needed to cut rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The 10 warmest years since records began in the 19th century have all been since 1997, the data showed. Last year was the warmest, ahead of 2010, undermining claims by skeptics that global warming has declined in recent years.

Record temperatures last year were spread around the globe, including most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, the western US, far eastern Russia into western Alaska, parts of interior South America, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia and elsewhere, NASA and the NOAA said.

“While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies director Gavin Schmidt said in New York.

In December, about 200 governments are scheduled to meet in Paris to try and reach a deal to limit global warming, shifting to renewable energies. China and the US, the top emitters of greenhouse gases, have said they are cooperating more to achieve a UN accord.

The new data “is another reminder that climate change is not a problem for the future — it’s happening here and now and we can’t wait to take action,” a White House official said in a statement.

However, the US Senate’s leading climate change skeptic, Republican Senator James Inhofe, said the temperature difference between last year and 2010 was so insignificant as to prove there was no need for more stringent regulations by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“Human activity is clearly not the driving cause for global warming, and is not leading our planet to the brink of devastation that many alarmists want us to believe,” he said.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said it is at least 95 percent probable that human activities, rather than natural variations in the climate caused by factors such as sunspots, are to blame for rising temperatures.

However, a Paris deal would be hard to achieve since curbs on fossil fuel use are unpopular in many nations. Low oil prices might also discourage a shift to cleaner wind and solar power.

“The political challenges of organizing countries to respond, particularly through the UN process, remain very high,” Council on Foreign Relations energy and environment fellow Michael Levi said.

University of Reading National Centre for Atmospheric Science climate research director Rowan Sutton said a single year did not mean much because it might be an unusually hot year.

“But the fact that now 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since the turn of the century shows just how clear global warming has become,” he said.

Temperatures have not risen as fast as they did in the 1980s or 1990s, taking an unusually warm 1998 as a starting point. The IPCC has described it as a hiatus in warming.

Since 1880, the Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 0.8°C, NASA said. The NASA and NOAA analyses showed that the world’s oceans all warmed last year, offsetting somewhat more moderate temperatures over land.

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