The world has just witnessed the hottest year on record, surpassing the exceptionally high temperatures of 2015, the United Nations weather agency reported. Weather-related events are now forcibly displacing more people than conflict and violence.
The globally averaged temperature in 2016 was about 1.1 degree Celsius higher than the pre-industrial period, according to new analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). With the exception of 1998, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record to date will have been during this century.
“2016 was an extreme year for the global climate and stands out as the hottest year on record,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a statement, stressing that “temperatures only tell part of the story.”
Taalas emphasises that “long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached new heights in 2016, as carbon dioxide and methane concentrations surged to new records,” adding that carbon dioxide, as well as methane concentrations contribute to climate change.
Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years, trapping heat and causing the earth to warm further. It is also the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. According to the WMO, carbon dioxide is responsible for 85 per cent of the warming effect on the Earth’s climate over the past decade.
Rising temperatures and concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are not the only record-breaking indicators of climate change. Arctic sea ice also remains at very low levels.
“Greenland glacier melt – one of the contributors to sea level rise – started early and fast. Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record both at the start of the melt season in March and at the height of the normal refreezing period in October and November,” Taalas explained.
Throughout 2016, extreme weather events caused huge socio-economic disruption and losses.
“The one degree change means that the amount of disasters related to weather and hydrology have been increasing,” Mr Taalas said recently in an interview with UN News, adding that “it will have a negative impact on the economies of the countries, and it will also impact the lives and wellbeing of all humans.”
For instance, 19.2 million people were displaced in 2015 displacements due to weather, water, climate and geophysical hazards in 113 countries. That number is more than twice the number of people displaced due to human-related conflict and violence.