Climate change: Last decade officially hottest on record and ‘we’re running out of time’

The planet is now warmer than it has ever been after the 2010s saw surface temperatures reach record highs. Global warming has been on a steady incline each decade since the 1960s, with 2019 being the second hottest year since record-keeping began in 1880.

Independent analysis carried out by NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the last five years have been the warmest of the last 140.

Across the globe, surface temperatures recorded in 2019 have only been second to 2016.

But over the past year, the planet has seen temperatures about 0.98C degrees (1.8F) higher than the 1951 to 1980 average.

Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) said: “The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record.

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“Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before.”

The damning climate report comes amid widespread bushfires in Australia, which experts believe have been stoked by climate change.

According to the NASA and NOAA report, average temperatures are now more than 1C (2F) above those of the 19th century.

To put climate change into perspective, the last Ice Age was only about 5.5C (10F) colder than pre-industrial temperatures.

Climate experts and environmental campaign groups have now called for the world to take action.

Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Climate Change at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said: “This is yet another reminder that we are running out of time to act on the climate crisis.

“It is no surprise that the last decade was the hottest on record – nature has been constantly reminding us that we have to pick up the pace in the fight for our world.

We are running out of time to act on the climate crisis

Gareth Redmond-King, WWF

“The climate emergency makes extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and wildfires, both harsher and more likely.”

Researchers believe the global warming trends are down to human activity and the emissions of greenhouse gases.

The main culprit is carbon dioxide (CO2) but other gasses such as methane and nitrogen also trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere.

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As the warming continues, some experts fear it is already too late to significantly reverse the temperatures.

Dr Schmidt said: “We crossed over into more than 2F degrees warming territory in 2015 and we are unlikely to go back.

“This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon: we know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Rising temperatures and warming ocean waters are contributing to the loss of Earth’s glaciers and polar ice caps.

The Arctic region alone has warmed “slightly more than three times” faster than the rest of the world.

The melting ice caps, in particular, threatens to raise global sea levels and displace millions of people from coastal areas.

Rising temperatures will also contribute to more heatwaves, droughts and other extreme weather phenomena.

Mr Redmond-King said: “We must urgently raise our ambition if we are to stand a chance of protecting the natural world we depend upon.

“Here in the UK we have committed to end our domestic contribution to climate change by 2050, but are yet to back up these promises with the action and resource needed.

“Ahead of this year’s climate summit in Glasgow we must take urgent and show leadership in the face of this climate and nature emergency – inaction is not an option if we are to protect our planet for future generations.”

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