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Environment

This June Was the Hottest Ever, and Other Climate Change Facts

Flickr: Chris Ford

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, according to the latest data from NASA. This marks the 14th-straight month to break all previous temperature records.

In the first six months of this year, the average temperature was 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the pre-industrial era in the late 19th century The US, meanwhile, is about to be scorched by a heat wave this weekend. 

“Another month, another record. And another. And another. Decades-long trends of climate change are reaching new climaxes,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a press release.

The sharp rise in heat this year was influenced early on by the most powerful El Nino in recent memory, but scientists are quick to point out that long-term climate change is the real driver.

"While public opinion has surely swung in favour of belief in climate change, there is still a wide gap in understanding what needs to be done - that we need to keep the majority of fossil fuels in the ground," said Cam Fenton, Candaian tar sands organizer for 350.org. "The main reason it's so difficult to get there is the same reasons that climate denial was so pervasive for so long, because corporations like Exxon Mobil have been polluting the public discourse on climate change while they have been the driving force behind climate change. "

Read more: "Super" El Nino Finally Comes to an End

In particular, the rapid loss of the Arctic is warming up the rest of the world. Since 1980, the Arctic Sea has shrunk by 40%, according to NASA.

As the ice sheets melt because of rising temperatures, they are less able to blast cold to the rest of the world. Year after year, they shrink at faster rates and the effect on the rest of the world worsens.

All across the world, temperatures are rising and people are feeling the consequences.

"The immediate consequences of this are as diverse and dangerous as they are numerous," Fenton said. "From wildfires where I live in Canada to drought and deadly heat waves, to devastating flooding that drives communities from their homes and so on. It seems like today one need only to tune into the news to see another story of how climate change is impacting people and the planet here and now."

In economic terms, the world stands to lose $2 trillion per year because rising heat reduces the productivity of jobs like construction and farming. China and India are together expected to lose $450 billion per year.

Read more: Why the Himalayan Glaciers May Be the Most Important in the World

In Southeast Asia, economic output is expected to fall 15-20% by 2030 due to climate change.

This economic damage is based just on the heat stress felt by workers. It doesn’t include all the other ways — ocean acidification, droughts and floods, the spread of pests, the loss of forests, and more — that climate change will hurt economies.

And this is just looking at climate change through an economic lens.

The effect of relentlessly rising heat, month after month, is having a human toll.

The first climate refugees are being relocated; storms and extreme weather are claiming more lives; polluted air and water are shaving years off people’s lives.

Read more: The First US Climate Refugees Are Being Resettled

The impact of climate change has also been uneven. Some parts of the world are being struck with very dry weather, while others are facing extreme precipitation.

This is partly because cloud formations are changing in response to climate change. They’re moving toward the poles and causing drier weather in the sub-tropics.

NASA’s data provides a sobering look at how climate change is reaching a breakaway point, or, as the UN calls it, a new climax.  

While countries came together last September to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, which attempts to aggressively address the issue, climate change shows no signs of slowing down — so the reaction needs to speed up.

"First and foremost, governments need to leave fossil fuels in the ground," Fenton said. "Where I live, in Canada, that means the government needs to reject massive pipeline projects like the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean. "Agreements like the one made in Paris are only going to mean something if governments match their words with action, and that means leaving oil, coal and gas where it is and making a just transition to 100% renewables."


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