Climate change: The hottest year on record
“Well, it’s official,” said Phil Plait in Slate.com: 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last week that the average global temperature last year was as much as 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th-century average—making 2016 the third consecutive year to break the global temperature record. With grim timing, the news broke just before the inauguration of President Trump, a man who famously dismissed global warming as a Chinese “hoax.” Almost every one of Trump’s Cabinet nominees— most notably Scott Pruitt, his pick to head up the Environmental Protection Agency—has expressed skepticism about the overwhelming scientific consensus that mankind’s carbon emissions are driving climate change. Are we headed for disaster?
Climate hysterics are making “furious attempts” to hype up these numbers, said Robert Tracinski in TheFederalist.com. Both 2015 and 2016 were affected by El Niño, the Pacific Ocean weather system that produces a “natural increase in temperature.” What’s more, the NOAA calculated that last year was just 0.07 degrees warmer than the year before—a tiny rise that’s easily within the margin of error. There’s no denying that “the Earth’s surface has warmed over the last century,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But the warming is still “not nearly as great as the climate change computer models have predicted.” It shouldn’t be an act of heresy to question the scale of climate change and debate how best to address the issue.
You have to ignore an awful lot of alarming evidence to remain a skeptic, said Jen Kirby in NYMag.com. Sixteen of the 17 hottest years in history have taken place since 2000; global sea ice at both poles is at its lowest level since records began. Combating climate change simply isn’t something we can delay “for a presidential term or two, and catch up later,” said Annie Sneed in ScientificAmerican.com. If Trump follows through on his campaign promise to “cancel” the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement—in which nearly 200 countries agreed to limit their emissions— it will undermine the entire agreement. If emissions targets are not met, humanity will face rising sea levels and more extreme weather, including prolonged droughts, devastating floods, and savage heat waves. “There is little margin left between where the world is now and where it does not want to go.”