IF YOU’RE WONDERING HOW 2016 played out for earthlings like us, brace yourselves. In a State of the Climate Report released recently, that year stood out as the hottest ever in modern times. “Last year’s record heat resulted from the combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Nino early in that year,” the global climate report said.
Bad enough, but the 280-page report doesn’t end there. Accordingly, “the major indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet,” having noted that several markers — land and ocean temperatures, sea level and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere broke records set a year earlier.
This report is put together by nearly 500 scientists around the world and released each year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Meteorological Society. Three things stand out that should be a source of global concern. First, mankind seems to be unrelenting in its reliance on fossil fuels for global energy use. Second, greenhouse gases continue to be polluting the atmosphere in unprecedented levels — unchecked and without remorse, despite global recognition and agreements. Third, these gases envelope like a blanket to capture heat around our planet.
What do these ominous activities mean? Clearly, all the major greenhouse gases that drive warming up — all the carbon dioxide (CO2), all the methane and nitrous oxide, are rising to new unparalleled lights. We are now told that atmospheric CO2 concentration has reached 402.9 parts per million (ppm), surpassing the level of 400 ppm for the first time in modern annals and ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.
Quite obviously, the report emphasized, climate change is the most pressing issue facing humanity and life on Earth. Land and sea temperatures are now at new record-breaking levels, as evidenced by melting glaciers and ocean-swelling polar ice caps. In 2016, the global average sea level was 3.25 inches or 82 millimeters higher than the 1993 average, rising for six straight years, with the highest recorded in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Land surface temperatures warmed too last year: average Arctic land surface temperature was 3.6 Fahrenheit (2.0 Celsius), much above the 1981-2010 average. This represents a 6.3 F (3.5 C) increase since recording activities began in 1900.
Extreme weather events in 2016 have increased, from the summed up 93 named tropical cyclone activity that hit worldwide, well above the 1981-2010 average of 82 storms. Two countries in 2016 experienced record high annual temperatures: Mexico and India. In fact, over the northern and eastern Indian peninsula, a week-long heat wave at the end of April 2016 saw temperatures exceed 111 F (44 C), triggering a water crisis for 330 million people, from which 300 fatalities were listed.
The report further emphasizes that global drought was widespread. About 12 % of land surfaces worldwide experienced severe drought conditions or worse each month of 2016. Drought in that year was among the most extensive in the post-1950 record.
Clearly, we’re in troubled times. Clearly, global pollution goes on unabated, despite global efforts to bring down economic activities that contribute to global warming, activities that all of us — leaders and peoples — can do something about with serious, relentless passion.
If 2016 was bad enough globally, how would 2017 fare, now that we’re past the halfway mark.
Do we need to let off steam just to let the global heat simmer down to livable, survivable conditions?
Are we doing enough to bring down the toxic gases we’ve been recklessly, greedily ejecting into the atmosphere? Are we doing enough to bring our forests back to life and greenery?
The task is simple and summarizing enough for us to do singly and collectively. Act now and live on. Remain in gross indifference and die either scalded by rising temperatures, or get submerged by the onrushing sweep of the ocean tides.
If we don’t take care of nature, it won’t take care of us, all of us. If we don’t work to manage our future, knowing what it holds for us by our inaction, singly and collectively, nobody else will. Even our inheritors will never forgive us for surrendering that future in the hands of hotheads who refuse to see, feel and experience what has become too obvious: we either live and survive as one, or perish as one in palpable separate ways.