The year 2016 was a tumultuous year on several fronts.
The political world was shocked by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president.
And on the environment front, the world continued its headlong sprint into catastrophic climate change.
In its State of the Global Climate statement, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) suggested that global warming was accelerating, with 2016 making history with record high global atmospheric and ocean temperatures.
2016 was also marked by exceptionally low sea ice, the unabated rise in sea levels, and continued extreme weather and climate conditions.
Warmest on record
“This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1°C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06°C above the previous record set in 2015,” said WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas.
“This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system. Globally-averaged sea-surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year,” he said.
And Taalas was in no doubt that these rising temperatures are a direct consequence of man’s ongoing greenhouse-gas climate experiment.
“With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident.”
The WMO is a UN agency that predates the UN itself. Created as the International Meteorological Organization in 1873 as a weather monitoring exchange. Today it uses the latest technology and computer models to authoritatively assess the state of the Earth’s atmosphere.
This includes its interaction with the land and oceans, the resulting weather patterns and water distribution. With large parts of Africa and Asia experiencing prolonged, chronic droughts, the agency’s work is timely and important.
Dismantling climate research
Not least because US president Donald Trump doesn’t want science and research to impinge on his alternate reality. The Trump administration is soon to announce the dismantling of Barack Obama’s “stupid” climate change initiatives and policies to curb global warming.
Though the date and form of any announcement is yet to be finalised, such a move is consistent with his plan to terminate all climate change research and prevention programmes, as outlined in his proposed anti-Earth-science budget on 16 March.
We can only hope that Trump’s known disdain for international agreements generally, and the UN in particular, doesn’t end up hampering the WMO’s vital work.