Increase in global warming as a result of human activities, which caused 2016 to be the hottest year ever recorded, besides breaking several other climate-related records has spilled into 2017, transporting the planet’s inhabitants into “truly uncharted territory,” according to the World Meteorological Organisation’s report on climate change in 2016, which was published Tuesday.
“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” David Carlson, World Climate Research Programme director said in the press release about the report to be presented to UN member states and climate experts at a high-level conference on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda in New York on 23 March (World Meteorological Day) hosted by the President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson.
2016 saw many extreme weather events, ranging from vanishing Arctic and polar sea ice, the vast bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, flash floods in the UK and Paris and droughts in India, southern and eastern Africa and Central America that brought food insecurity to millions. Hurricane Matthew severely affected Haiti and heavy rains and floods caused hardship for those affected in eastern and southern Asia. As ocean heating and atmospheric carbon dioxide content continue to increase, scientists expect similar extreme weather-related events.
“With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident,” said Taalas.
Scientists who reviewed the report criticized President Trump’s comments and agenda on climate change. “While the data show an ever-increasing impact of human activities on the climate system, the Trump administration and senior Republicans in Congress continue to bury their heads in the sand,” Prof Sir Robert Watson, a climate scientist at the UK’s University of East Anglia and a former head of the UN’s climate science panel told the Guardian.
“Our children and grandchildren will look back on the climate deniers and ask how they could have sacrificed the planet for the sake of cheap fossil fuel energy when the cost of inaction exceeds the cost of a transition to a low-carbon economy,” Watson added.
Contrary to Trump's budget proposal that has prescribed major cuts to environmental agencies such as the EPA, WMO’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas advised for “continued investment in climate research and observations" as he explained that doing so "is vital if our scientific knowledge is to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change.”