It’s 2020 now—good riddance, 2019, and no thanks for turning up the heat! According to NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), last year was the second-hottest ever recorded. Climate change has certainly done a number on our lives, and extreme changes in weather are part and parcel of that.
For those of you who thought 2019 was a hot and sweaty year—you were right. Temperatures last year were at its highest, with the exception of 2016, which holds the official title of the hottest year ever recorded.
The global average of temperatures in 2016 was only 0.04 degrees Celsius higher than last year’s readings. In fact, 2019 saw the end of the hottest decade ever recorded. The Copernicus Climate Change Service, a branch of the European Union, reported similar news last week.
But it was not enough for 2019 to be the second-hottest year ever for humankind; no, it was also Europe’s hottest year ever, it was the second-wettest year the United States has ever experienced, and it also set the record for the warmest year for the world’s oceans.
NOAA reported that 2019 saw temperatures of 2.07 degrees Fahrenheit or 1.15 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average (as compared to data from the years of 1880 to 1900).
According to NASA’s data, we have been experiencing above-average global land and oceanic temperatures for a staggering 43 years in a row, and the five hottest years on record (since 1880, when record-keeping began) have been our most recent—2015 to 2019.
While the global discussion on climate change and its impact on our planet has become more urgent, we are now experiencing its actual effects, beginning with rapidly increasing temperatures.
“We are experiencing the impacts of global warming unfolding literally in real time,” Noah Diffenbaugh, Stanford Earth science professor, told The Verge.
Humans are at the heart of this global problem. Gavin A. Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told reporters on a call that the upward trends of rising global temperatures can be wholly attributed to human activity.
The entire planet’s average temperature has already gone up by one degree Celsius, thanks to our heedless burning of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases.
The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, an accord within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was put in place to aggressively combat the negative effects of climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Scientists are of the opinion that if we allow global temperatures to get that high, there is a very real danger of great damage to our world—70 percent of the world’s coastlines will shrink because of rising sea levels, and we could lose 99 percent of our coral reefs.
Things are looking dire. WMO said in a statement that that at the rate we are going with carbon dioxide emissions, global temperatures could rise by three to five degrees by the end of this century.
“Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.