With “highest concentration of CO2 in the air in 800,000 years,” how much more proof does president need?
With a climate denier in the Oval Office, a “fossil fuel puppet” heading the Environmental Protection Agency, and Big Oil lobbyists filling the ranks of secretive deregulatory teams, a new report by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that 2016 was the hottest—and in some ways most alarming—year on record.
The report—based on contributions from over 450 scientists from nearly 60 countries—is the most detailed climate assessment that has emerged from a government agency since Donald Trump became president, a fact that raised questions about how it will be received by the White House.
But as The Atlantic‘s Robinson Meyer notes, 2016 appears to have been “altogether exceptional,” and not in a good way.
The agency’s executive summary alone—which contains seven bullet points detailing how 2016 was a particularly bad year for the climate—was sufficient to deeply concern many activists, scientists, and lawmakers.
In 2016, the report found:
- Greenhouse gases were the highest on record. Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, rose to new record-high values in 2016. The 2016 average global CO2 concentration was 402.9 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 3.5 ppm compared with 2015 and the largest annual increase observed in the 58-year record.
- Global surface temperature was the highest on record. Aided in part by the strong El Niño early in the year, the 2016 combined global land and ocean surface temperature was record-high for a third consecutive year, according to four global analyses. The increase in temperature ranged from 0.81–1.01. degrees F (0.45°–0.56°C) above the 1981-2010 average.
- Average sea surface temperature was the highest on record. According to four independent datasets analyzed, the record-breaking globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2016 was 0.65–0.74 degrees F (0.36–0.41 degrees C) higher than the 1981–2010 average and surpassed the previous mark set in 2015 by 0.02–0.05 degrees F (0.01–0.03 degrees C).
- Global upper-ocean heat content neared record high. Heat in the uppermost layer of the ocean, the top 2,300 feet (700 meters), saw a slight drop compared to the record high set in 2015. The findings are consistent with a continuing trend of warming oceans.
- Global sea level was the highest on record. The global average sea level rose to a new record high in 2016, and was about 3.25 inches (82 mm) higher than that observed in 1993, when satellite record-keeping for sea level began.
- Arctic sea ice coverage was at or near record low. The maximum Arctic sea ice extent (coverage) reached in March 2016 tied last year as the smallest in the 37-year satellite data record, while the minimum sea ice extent in September tied 2007 as the second lowest on record.
- Tropical cyclones were above-average overall. There were 93 named tropical cyclones across all ocean basins in 2016, above the 1981-2010 average of 82 storms. Three basins – the North Atlantic and Eastern and Western Pacific basins – experienced above-normal activity in 2016.
The report also included a graphic (click image for version) that highlighted the impact such metrics had throughout the globe, from severe wildfires in Canada to sweltering heat in India.
Upon the report’s release, commentators were quick to ask pointed questions about whether Trump—who has called climate change a “hoax”—or members of his administration would even so much as acknowledge the results, let alone do anything about them.
Trump’s budget proposals from earlier this year provide some indication of how he feels about the agency that produced the analysis.
In March, the Washington Post obtained a budget memo showing that the Trump administration intended to slash NOAA funding by 17 percent, a cut that former NOAA chief scientist Rick Spinrad said would “jeopardiz[e] the safety of the American public.”
Trump’s extremity is such that even the Republican Congress is pushing back against his drive to almost completely eviscerate the EPA (and all other scientific research not driven by the military).
Writes Randy Lee Loftis for the Center for Investigative Reporting:
Overall, Trump’s budget would eliminate more than $30.6 billion, or nearly 21 percent, of research and development funding in fiscal year 2018 compared with 2016, when the Obama administration budgeted $148.3 billion. Adjusted for inflation, those cuts would reach almost 24 percent.
The biggest loser would be the Environmental Protection Agency, which would surrender 46.3 percent, or $239 million, of its research and development funds. Five others also face double-digit blows: the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Interior, Energy and the National Science Foundation. ….
But the cuts in the Trump budget go far deeper than the belt-tightening Republicans in Congress have advocated.
In response, Congress is starting to push back, with House bills that contain more money than the president requested for specific programs, and Senate bills offering more than the House. At the EPA, for example, a House bill would reduce research by 14.4 percent rather than Trump’s 46.3 percent.
With the House and Senate recessed for August, Congress hasn’t agreed on a final budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1.
Speaking of the NOAA report, the Guardian‘s Dana Nuccitelli concludes:
“Today’s remarkably hot temperatures, caused by human carbon pollution, are a sign of what’s to come. … If we don’t get global warming under control, the consequences will indeed be bad.”
Adapted from a dispatch via Jake Johnson at Common Dreams.