Scientists heat up climate change warnings

Data from the US space agency Nasa show that July 2016 was the hottest month on record, and 2016 is almost certain to set a new record as the hottest year. The latest data come as a separate interpretation of historical data suggests the earth is warming up faster than at any time in the past 1000 years.

The previous record hottest month was July 2015, but this July was 0.11°C hotter, making it the hottest since records began in 1880. The last 10 months have now set temperature records for their respective months.

Interpreting the data for the Guardian, the Australian climate scientist David Karoly said July 2016 was 1.3°C warmer than the pre-industrial average, of which about 0.2°C was a result of the El Niño effect and 1.1°C due to human-induced climate change.

But assessing the results alongside analyses of historical climate data, a leading Nasa climate scientist, Gavin Schmidt, said the current climate trends have taken us into ‘exceptional territory … unprecedented in 1,000 years’, and they endanger the likelihood of last December’s Paris climate accord reaching its targets.

Despite record-keeping going back only 136 years, geological surveys have given an indication of climate patterns over many centuries, which is how comparisons going back 1,000 years can be made. Schmidt, the director of Nasa’s climate research institute GISS, added: ‘Maintaining temperatures below the 1.5°C guardrail requires significant and very rapid cuts in CO2 emissions or coordinated geoengineering. That is very unlikely. We are not even yet making emissions cuts commensurate with keeping warming below 2°C.’