Climate change is accelerating, and the record books are struggling to keep pace. As if a yearly rewrite wasn’t bad enough, we could have written this halfway through 2016 and had enough to fill the pages!
It’s clear that the effects of climate change are exponential – here’s a look at a few of the many dubious records that were smashed during 2016.
Not Just Melting Ice Cream
Like ice cream, our ice caps are best kept frozen. They play a key role in moderating the global climate, because they reflect the sun’s radiation and keep the polar regions cool. We all know that climate change is causing them to melt, but new research suggests that the rate is rapidly accelerating – 2016 broke record after record, as each month the extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new low.
The Greenland ice sheet alone is now losing 269 billion tons of ice annually, which is nearly triple the previous century’s rates. That’s a weight equivalent to 8.6 quadrillion (86 followed by 14 zeros!) pints of ice cream per year! If the entire population of the USA ate one tub of each of Ben & Jerry’s 40 flavour combinations per day, it would still take well over 900 years to get through the lot. Line them up and they’d stretch from Earth to the Sun and back nearly 29,000 times!
To Hell Or High Water
Antarctica’s ice sheet contains almost 90% of the world’s ice, and – worryingly – the latest simulations indicate that it may be melting quicker than we thought. Scientists now fear that sea levels could rise over six feet by the end of the century, which is nearly twice the previously predicted amount. Needless to say, this would be catastrophic for low-lying and coastal communities around the globe, and would leave major cities like New York, Mumbai, and Shanghai partially under water.
It was quite a year for global temperatures. According to NASA, 11 of the 12 months in 2016 were the hottest versions of themselves since records began. July was the hottest month in history, but no sooner had it broken the record when along came August to knock it from the podium.
But let’s put the individual rankings aside for a second, because it’s the underlying trend that counts. 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded, until 2015 came along. And now that 2016 is taking the lead, even the most wildly talented of skeptics would be hard pushed to deny that there’s a pattern emerging here. Even Donald Trump seems to be reconsidering his claim that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China!
Record Sea Ice Break-up
Concerns are mounting over a huge fissure in Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf, which may cause a chunk as large as the US state of Delaware to detach. If you’re not familiar with it, that’s essentially over 5,000 square kilometers. To put it into our terms, if you were to pack together tubs of our ice cream side by side in a layer one-deep, you’d need almost 650 billion to cover it.
Thanks to climate change, dry regions of the planet are becoming dryer, and few places are harder hit than the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is currently suffering its worst drought in 50 years, leaving 18 million people in urgent need of aid. Let’s take a moment to recognize that 18 million is larger than the population of London and New York City combined.
This also has a direct bearing on the global refugee crisis, as increasing numbers of people are forced to flee their homes just to find basic necessities like food and water.
Record high temperatures
Not only was July of 2016 the hottest month ever in average terms, it also saw the highest temperatures ever reliably recorded on planet Earth. Mitribah, Kuwait sizzled in searing 54°C (129.2°F) heat on 21st July, while Basra in Iraq followed hot on its heels a day later at a sweltering 53.9°C (129F). Meanwhile, a new national record of 51°C (123.8°F) was set in the Indian state of Rajasthan in May.
But it’s not just in traditionally hot regions that we’re seeing such abnormal highs - they’re all part of a widespread pattern of rising temperatures caused by climate change. For example, 13th September 2016 was the hottest September day in the UK in over 100 years, at a balmy 34.4°C (93.9°F), while soaring temperatures menaced large parts of the US during the heat wave experienced in July.
Let’s Keep Cool!
It’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re on the verge of runaway climate change, and that’s a destination with no return ticket! If we want to avert the impending disaster, we have to kick our fossil fuel habit and go all-in on renewable energy. Sign the petition today, and let’s show our leaders that we’re serious about curbing our carbon emissions, and keeping the planet like we keep our ice cream – cool!