22:42 GMT26 October 2020
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    The last four years have been the hottest on record, with 2018 being the fourth-hottest, according to data released Monday by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), one of the services provided by the European Union’s Copernicus Programme.

    According to the data, the average world surface air temperature was 14.7 degrees Celsius in 2018 — 0.2 degrees less than the temperature in 2016, which was the warmest year on record. 

    Carbon dioxide emissions — one of the main greenhouse gases — continue to rise by about 2.5 ppm (parts per million) every year, and C3S' findings also revealed that the 2018 air surface temperature was 0.4 degrees warmer than the 1981 to 2019 average.

    "The Copernicus Climate Change Service provides quality assured data of climate indicators like surface temperature, sea-ice cover and hydrological variables like precipitation," Jean-Noël Thépaut, head of C3S, said in a Monday press release.

    "In 2018, we have again seen a very warm year, the fourth warmest on record. Dramatic climatic events like the warm and dry summer in large parts of Europe or the increasing temperature around the Arctic regions are alarming signs to all of us. Only by combining our efforts, can we make a difference and preserve our planet for future generations," he added.

    "It's not only that the last year was the fourth warmest on record — it's also that 2014, 15, 16, 17 all set records," Fred Magdoff, professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont and the co-author of "What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism: A Citizen's Guide to Capitalism and the Environment," told Sputnik Monday. "So… the last six years are all warmer than any year before that… And I think that's the important thing — what you're seeing is that temperatures are just increasing at a relatively rapid rate… the last six years have been just exceptional."

    According to Magdoff, the temperature increase "means you're increasing the instability of the climate, basically," as well as increasing the instability of precipitation. This can lead to deadly phenomena like longer, more intense heat waves.

    "In Japan, I think, it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time [in 2018]," Magdoff told Sputnik, noting the other parts of Asia, as well as Europe and the Americas also experienced heat waves last year. "And that's one of the things with heat waves: you have an increase in deaths," he said. 

    Instability of precipitation can also kill people, through starvation due to drought or through violent flooding.

    This can also cause political crises, he noted. "Part of the Central American migration [to the US]… has been the dry conditions in Central America. It's not the only condition: there's political instability, which the US was instrumental in causing over decades of interventions in Guatemala, El Salvador, in Honduras, and so that issue is coming home to roost because those countries are quite violent. And then you have the climate issue on top of that, that is the dry conditions in that particular case," Magdoff said, noting that the migration "is not an emergency; it's relatively small compared to migrations we've had in the past."

    For people scared by climate trends, Magdoff said, supporting groups that are working to limit or end fossil fuel use would be a good starting point. He also cited the Green New Deal proposed in the US House of Representatives.

    "We need to be educating ourselves and each other that we're talking about dramatic changes. And these dramatic changes in the economy and how it functions… need to start happening reasonably soon, or else we're going to be in a pickle: it's going to be very, very unpleasant for a lot of people," he warned. 


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