We knew it was going to be a record breaker. We knew that atmospheric greenhouse gasses in the range of 400 parts per million CO2 and 485 parts per million CO2e, when combined with one of the top three strongest El Ninos in the Pacific, would result in new all-time global record high temperatures. But what we didn’t know was how substantial the jump would ultimately be.
Today, the numbers were made public by NASA. And I hate to say it, but it’s a real doozy. Overall, according to NASA, Climate Year 2015 — the 12 month period from December of 2014 through November of 2015 — was 0.84 C hotter than NASA’s 20th Century Baseline. That’s 0.11 C hotter than previous hottest year 2014 and a full 0.21 C hotter than climate change deniers’ favorite cherry — 1998. In other words past record hot years are being left in the dust as the world is heating up to ever more dangerously warm global temperatures.
(NASA’s global temperature graph through end 2014. Climate year 2015, at 0.84 C above the NASA 20th Century baseline, is quite literally off the chart. Image source: NASA GISS.)
In any case, the current NASA Graph above is going to need some serious adjusting as the new global average for climate year 2015 is simply off the top of the chart. A new jump that gives lie to the increasingly obvious fake claim made by climate change deniers over the past two years that global warming somehow ‘paused.’
But aside from reality once again making the fossil fuel cheerleaders of the world (aka climate change deniers) look increasingly imbecilic, 2015’s new temperature increase is a visible sign of increasing climate danger. This year’s 0.84 C temperature departure above NASA’s 20th Century baseline is 1.06 C hotter than 1880s values. It’s a number just 0.44 C (or two more strong El Ninos) away from crossing the very dangerous 1.5 C threshold that nations of the world recently pledged to attempt to avoid at the Paris Climate Summit. It’s also a number more than halfway toward hitting the catastrophic 2 C warming threshold. Perhaps more ominously, Monthly temperature departures in October of 2015 hit a range of 1.06 C above the 20th Century baseline and 1.28 C above 1880s averages — shorter term ranges that are already coming close to testing the 1.5 C threshold.
Hard Work Ahead to Prevent the Most Dangerous Outcomes
Regardless of arguments about how possible or likely we are to avoid such dangerous and catastrophic warming in the future, we should recognize now that we’ve already locked in enough atmospheric and ocean heat to begin setting off dangerous geophysical changes. A world 1 C hotter than 1880 is a world of increasingly rapid sea level rise, a world of increasingly swiftly declining ocean health, a world where water security in many places is already at risk, a world of worsening droughts and deluges, a world in which the strongest storms are growing ever stronger. A world 1 C hotter than 1880 is a world that is starting to see the dangerous and damaging impacts of human-forced climate change. A place where the worst is still yet to come.
So let’s not mince words. It’s going to be bad and it’s going to get worse. How bad and how much worse depends on how rapidly the world weans itself off fossil fuels and hits net zero or net negative carbon emissions. At more than 50 billion tons of CO2e hitting the atmosphere each year now, we have a long way to go and fast. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that we’re up to the challenge. It’s getting rough out there. Let’s not tempt nature to unleash upon us the worst of the world’s climate demons. Unfortunately, a few have already slipped the bonds. But there are many more waiting if we continue along this wretched path of burning.
UPDATES TO FOLLOW