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Environment

2016 on pace to be hottest year ever

Flickr: Global Panorama

This April was the warmest April that has ever been recorded, the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records.

According to new data released by NASA, the land and sea temperatures this April were 1.11 degrees Celsius (33.998 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average April temperatures recorded between 1951 to 1980, prompting scientists to declare a climate emergency.  

2015 was the hottest year ever recorded in humankind’s history, and 2016 has been predicted to beat that record. Going by the trend set by the past months, 2016 is fast on its way to overtake the 2015 record.

El Nino, the weather phenomenon that scientists say contributes to climate change, was especially strong this past year, leading to a surge in global temperatures. El Nino causes the waters of the Pacific Ocean to warm up, causing extreme weather conditions like droughts and heavy flood-causing rains in other parts of the world.

The main culprit behind rising temperatures, however, is the continued dependence on fossil fuels around the world.  

According to a study conducted by the World Bank, Malawi is the nation that is most susceptible to droughts, Bangladesh is most threatened by floods, and Sudan tops the list of countries most likely to face a food deficit due to the effect of climate change on agriculture.

The surge in temperatures this year has already caused extreme weather conditions in several parts of the world. Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in Southeast Asia have been struck by drought, severe heat, and water shortages that are killing animals and destroying rice crops. Singapore is seeing abnormally high temperatures while lakes and crops are drying up in Malaysia.

The goods news is that the world is starting to act.

In response to this growing climate emergency, representatives of 195 countries signed the Paris climate agreement on 22 April, Earth Day 2016. The ambitious agreement is aimed at capping global temperature rises at 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average for that month. This would keep temperatures below the 2 degrees Celsius (35.8 degrees Fahrenheit) mark that scientists say will be calamitous for the planet.

If global temperatures start rising by more than the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius , it could mean that hurricanes and storms would be more powerful, the number of wildfires would increase in number and in size worldwide, Arctic ice would continue to melt, agricultural produce and crop yields would greatly decline, the quantity of freshwater would be reduced, and more species would be at risk for extinction.

Low-income countries, where extreme poverty is most common, will be hardest hit by climate change in the future and have the fewest resources to deal with the crisis.

Sahel droughtImage: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

With this in mind, the Paris Agreement includes commitments from individual countries to slash pollution-causing emissions as well as to help poorer nations adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. While the agreement does not propose an ultimate solution to global warming, it has established an unprecedented international basis for dealing with rising temperatures by establishing a roadmap for the next 10 to 15 years. The deal also ensures that countries are held to the same measure of shared transparency in measuring, reporting, and curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Governments of these countries also committed to replacing fossil fuels almost entirely with clean energy in the second half of this century.

In the meantime, global citizens everywhere can do what they can to reduce their eco-footprints. Climate change is a global problem, but every effort to help the environment is helpful.