Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Last year was Earth's hottest on record, U.S. scientists say

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) -
Last year was Earth's hottest on
record in new evidence that
people are disrupting the climate
by burning fossil fuels that
release greenhouse gases into
the air, two U.S. government
agencies said on Friday.
The White House said the studies,
by the U.S. space agency NASA
and the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), showed climate change
was happening now and that
action was needed to cut rising
world greenhouse gas
emissions.
The 10 warmest years since
records began in the 19th
century have all been since 1997,
the data showed. Last year was
the warmest, ahead of 2010,
undermining claims by some
skeptics that global warming has
stopped in recent years.
Record temperatures in 2014
were spread around the globe,
including most of Europe
stretching into northern Africa,
the western United States, far
eastern Russia into western
Alaska, parts of interior South
America, parts of eastern and
western coastal Australia and
elsewhere, NASA and NOAA said.
"While the ranking of individual
years can be affected by chaotic
weather patterns, the long-term
trends are attributable to drivers
of climate change that right now
are dominated by human
emissions of greenhouse gases,"
said Gavin Schmidt, director of
NASA's Goddard Institute of
Space Studies in New York.
"The data shows quite clearly
that it's the greenhouse gas
trends that are responsible for
the majority of the trends," he
told reporters. Emissions were
still rising "so we may anticipate
further record highs in the years
to come."
U.N. studies show there already
are more extremes of heat and
rainfall and project ever more
disruptions to food and water
supplies. Sea levels are rising,
threatening millions of people
living near coasts, as ice melts
from Greenland to Antarctica.
PARIS MEETING IN DECEMBER
Next December, about 200
governments will meet in Paris to
try to reach a deal to limit global
warming, shifting to renewable
energies. China and the United
States, the top emitters of
greenhouse gases, say they are
cooperating more to achieve a
U.N. accord.
The new data "is another
reminder that climate change is
not a problem for the future - it's
happening here and now and
we can't wait to take action," a
White House official said in a
statement.
Opponents of the proposed
Keystone XL pipeline that would
transport Canadian crude oil
across the United States said the
new data made it all the more
pressing to prevent the
construction of the pipeline.
But U.S. Senator James Inhofe, a
Republican who is the Senate's
leading climate change skeptic,
said the temperature difference
between 2014 and 2010 was so
insignificant as to prove there
was no need for more stringent
regulations by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
"Human activity is clearly not the
driving cause for global
warming, and is not leading our
planet to the brink of devastation
that many alarmists want us to
believe," he said.
The U.N.'s Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
says it is at least 95 percent
probable that human activities,
rather than natural variations in
the climate caused by factors
such as sunspots, are to blame
for rising temperatures.
Still, a Paris deal will be hard to
achieve since curbs on fossil fuel
use are unpopular in many
nations. Low oil prices may also
discourage a shift to cleaner
wind and solar power.
"The political challenges of
organizing countries to respond,
particularly through the UN
process, remain very high,"
Michael Levi, a fellow on energy
and environment at the Council
on Foreign Relations in New
York, told Reuters.
Rowan Sutton, director of climate
research at Britain's National
Centre for Atmospheric Science at
the University of Reading, said a
single year did not mean much
because it might be a freak hot
year.
"But the fact that now 14 of the
15 warmest years on record
have occurred since the turn of
the century shows just how clear
global warming has become," he
said.
Even so, temperatures have not
risen as fast as they did in the
1980s or 1990s, taking an
unusually warm 1998 as a
starting point. The IPCC has
described it as a hiatus in
warming.
NO EL NINO FACTOR
Since 1880, Earth's average
surface temperature has warmed
by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit
(0.8 degree Celsius), NASA said.
The NASA and NOAA analyses
showed that the world's oceans
all warmed last year, offsetting
somewhat more moderate
temperatures over land.
The average temperature across
global land and ocean surfaces
was 1.24 degrees F (0.69 degree
C) above the 20th century
average, NOAA said.
The scientists noted that the
record was set in a year that did
not have the weather pattern
known as El Niño, which can heat
up the atmosphere and has been
a factor in many past record-
setting years, including 1998.
The United Nations says it is
already clear that promises for
emissions curbs at the Paris
summit will be too weak to get
on track for a U.N. goal of limiting
global warming to 3.6 degrees F
(2 degrees C) above pre-
industrial times.

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