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2016 Is the Third Straight Hottest Year Ever, Study Finds

A man takes a shower at a beach of Alimos suburb, in Athens, July 12, 2017. A summer heatwave has hit Greece, with temperatures reaching a high of 102 degrees Fahrenheit in Athens.
Petros Giannakouris/AP

For the third consecutive year, the average global temperature in 2016 broke all previous records to become the hottest year in recorded history, according to the American Meteorological Society.

Average global temperatures were approximately 1 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the average seen between 1981-2010.

Since the turn of the century, the world has seen 15 of the 16 hottest years in recorded history.

Even more alarming than the heat, however, is the growth of emissions entering the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide levels increased by 3.5 parts per million in the atmosphere, the single largest increase in the 58 years that carbon has been measured.

That increase puts the Earth above 400 parts per million, a theoretical “red line” that climate scientists were hoping to avoid as it puts the Earth beyond a dangerous threshold that could bring about severe changes to the climate.

The climate action advocacy group 350.org took its name from the earlier goal of keeping carbon under 350 parts of per million, which was previously seen as a red line.

Read More: 6 of the Hottest Places in the World, With or Without Climate Change

Above all, the emissions growth demonstrates both the failure of countries to act and the ongoing challenges surrounding climate action.

The Paris climate agreement set a goal of keeping global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and current projections show the Earth is surpassing that level.

In fact, leading climate scientists in the US recently released a report arguing that the Earth could see temperature increases of up to 7.5 degrees Fahrenheit (4.8 degrees Celsius), a level that would unleash catastrophic heat waves, sea level rise, extreme storms, and much more.

Already, the world is struggling with new climate norms.

Sea levels throughout the world are flooding coastlines, displacing people from their homes, wrecking coastal economies, and rendering coastal farmlands useless. In Bangladesh, for instance, many rice farmers have seen their fields destroyed by saltwater intrusion. Miami, it was recently discovered, has seen sea levels rising at six times the global average.

Read More: There Could Be 2 Billion Climate Change Refugees by 2100

Brutal heatwaves are becoming more common throughout the world. Ahvaz, Iran, for instance, broke the hottest daily record for heat in June. It was so hot that people were instructed to stay indoors, or risk death. In India, meanwhile, temperature increases were recently linked to tens of thousands of farmer suicides because of the effects the increases are having on crops.

Coral reefs, meanwhile, are disintegrating throughout the world as the oceans heat. This not only destroys the marine habitats of countless species, but it also endangers the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.

In the Arctic, unprecedented heat waves are accelerating the melting of glaciers in a frightening feedback loop — as ice melts, it gives way to water, which absorbs more heat, and stokes more ice melt.

To make matters worse, 2017 is on pace to break the heat record once again.