Higher temperatures in 2016 cause worries about climate change

by Sophie Yang, ’19

Record-breaking temperatures have occurred during 2016. According to NASA’s records, July and August this year were the warmest months recorded in 136 years. February and March 2016 were also abnormally warm due to a severe El Niño in the Pacific Ocean. As a result of these records, many are worried about permanent climate change.

According to NASA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, when Earth was coming out of the Ice Age, its temperature rose less than 0.2 degrees Celsius every century on average. However, the temperatures this year were 1.3 degrees higher than averages before the Industrial Revolution.

“A one-degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much,” NASA wrote on its website. “In the past, a one- to two-degree drop was all it took to plunge the Earth into the Little Ice Age. A five-degree drop was enough to bury a large part of North America under a towering mass of ice 20,000 years ago.”


Difference in global temperatures from the average. Graph courtesy NASA.


In November and December 2015, Paris held the United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly known as COP 21, to combat global warming. The panel decided to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above temperatures before the Industrial Revolution but hoped to keep it under 1.5 degrees.

However, some scientists find this goal to be unrealistic. According to The Guardian, John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said that people would have to take major strides to have a chance of achieving the 1.5-degree goal.

“By 2025 we will have to have closed down all coal-fired power stations across the planet,” Schellnhuber said. “By 2030, you will have to get rid of the combustion engine entirely.”

If Earth warms by 2 degrees Celsius, some consequences would include more than four times as many wildfires in the United States and oceans becoming more acidic. Since global climate change will affect weather patterns, it would also cause a less stable food supply.

World leaders gathered in Marrakech, Morocco this November for the COP 22 meeting. They discussed further plans for limiting climate change and pledged to move forward with the Paris Agreement, which includes keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. So far, 111 countries have ratified the document.