2016 was the hottest year on record and human activity is to blame, scientists announced on Wednesday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that 2016 was 1.69 degrees warmer than the mid-20th century average. The average temperature across the Earth’s land and ocean surfaces was 58.69 degrees. It was the largest margin by which an annual global temperature record has ever been broken, NOAA said.
In 2016, global warming delivered scorching temperatures around the world. The resulting extreme weather means the impacts of climate change on people are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected, according to scientists.
The record-smashing temperatures led to searing heatwaves across the year and warmer oceans saw coral mortality of up to 50% in parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and bleaching of 75% of Japan’s biggest reef.
Record high temperatures were set on nearly every continent. No land areas were cooler than average for the year.
Since the start of the 21st century, the annual global temperature record has been broken five times — 2005, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
“The science is clear and headed in one direction,” said Lou Leonard with the World Wildlife Fund. “Human-caused changes in climate are putting the lives of both people and wildlife at risk. From disappearing Arctic ice in Alaska to greater storm surges along our nation’s coastlines to heatwaves in America’s heartland, nature is sending a distress call.”
The announcement came days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has said that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China.
Prof Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, said: “The spate of record-warm years that we have seen in the 21st century can only be explained by human-caused climate change. The effect of human activity on our climate is no longer subtle. It’s plain as day, as are the impacts – in the form of record floods, droughts, superstorms and wildfires – that it is having on us and our planet.”
“While there may be some cost in mitigating climate change, there are already major costs in damages,” said Prof Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, who estimates the costs as already tens of billions of dollars a year. “Yet if sensible approaches are implemented in the right way for [cutting emissions] and building resilience, the increases in energy efficiency can actually make it a net gain, not only for the planet for for everyone.”
The World Meteorological Organization and the climate monitoring agencies of Europe and Japan previously came to similar conclusions regarding 2016’s record temperature.