State of the Climate 2016
August 11, 2017 1:02 PM   Subscribe

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday released its annual review of Earth's climate from the previous year. The 27th annual State of the Climate report has confirmed that 2016 topped 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of record keeping. Numerous records were set, including global CO2 concentration (402.9 ppm), global sea level, and global surface temperature. While fossil fuels are a focus, Vice News argues the report "...appears to largely downplay the scientific consensus surrounding humanity’s role in causing climate change. "

Full 299 page report here. Highlights:

1. Greenhouse gases were the highest on record. Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, rose to new record-high values in 2016. The 2016 average global CO2 concentration was 402.9 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 3.5 ppm compared with 2015 and the largest annual increase observed in the 58-year record.

2. Global surface temperature was the highest on record. Aided in part by the strong El Nino early in the year, the 2016 combined global land and ocean surface temperature was record-high for a third consecutive year, according to four global analyses. The increase in temperature ranged from 0.81–1.01. degrees F (0.45°–0.56°C) above the 1981-2010 average.

3. Average sea surface temperature was the highest on record. According to four independent datasets analyzed, the record-breaking globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2016 was 0.65–0.74 degrees F (0.36–0.41 degrees C) higher than the 1981–2010 average and surpassed the previous mark set in 2015 by 0.02–0.05 degrees F (0.01–0.03 degrees C).

4. Global upper-ocean heat content neared record high. Heat in the uppermost layer of the ocean, the top 2,300 feet (700 meters), saw a slight drop compared to the record high set in 2015. The findings are consistent with a continuing trend of warming oceans.

5. Global sea level was the highest on record. The global average sea level rose to a new record high in 2016, and was about 3.25 inches (82 mm) higher than that observed in 1993, when satellite record-keeping for sea level began.

6. Arctic sea ice coverage was at or near record low. The maximum Arctic sea ice extent (coverage) reached in March 2016 tied last year as the smallest in the 37-year satellite data record, while the minimum sea ice extent in September tied 2007 as the second lowest on record.

7. Tropical cyclones were above-average overall. There were 93 named tropical cyclones across all ocean basins in 2016, above the 1981-2010 average of 82 storms. Three basins – the North Atlantic and Eastern and Western Pacific basins – experienced above-normal activity in 2016.
posted by Existential Dread (15 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
posted by cyclotronboy at 1:15 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]

posted by twsf at 1:40 PM on August 11

How to talk to your kids about climate change, even if you just want to scream FUCK WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE
posted by growabrain at 1:44 PM on August 11

So, which funds are investing in future sea-side land and property?
posted by Laotic at 2:17 PM on August 11

Why does it matter if climate change is caused by humanity or not? That point feels like a distraction to me. Some would argue that if it's not caused by humanity that means we need to do even more to stop it.
posted by sineater at 2:20 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]

Because the climate deniers are arguing that "if we didn't make it, we can't stop it, and anyway chill out, it's natural and it's going to slow down probably anyway in the 70s every scientist thought we were going to have a new Ice age".

It matters because it's a bullshit smokescreen that will kill, at the very very least, hundreds of millions of people.
posted by howfar at 2:48 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]

It matters because we need to know what levers to pull to slow the progression. If we don't acknowledge the key human activities (fossil fuels, especially coal) that are causing the problem, then those vested interests can continue to damage the environment and ruin the planet. A prime example would be the ozone hole, and the culprit CFCs. The Montreal Protocol successfully phased out those compounds, and the ozone hole is gradually repairing itself. Climate change is orders of magnitude more complex in its causes, and those causes are far more fundamental to human society, and in order to begin tackling it we need to understand and acknowledge those causes.

I want to note that my goal with this post is to be a realist about our changing climate, rather than wallow in despair. It's easy to get caught up in all the other things going on but this global problem is gathering steam and will impact all of humanity.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:01 PM on August 11 [16 favorites]

the largest annual increase observed in the 58-year record.

I see where you buried that lede, NOAA.
posted by sfenders at 4:03 PM on August 11

Existentially Dreadful-

You do realize the electricity Tesla uses is substantially generated by coal, and that the mining of the elements used in the battery systems is horrendously damaging to the environment?

If we return to a primitivism without energy, billions will die.
posted by NeoRothbardian at 7:25 PM on August 11

The environmental impact of lithium ion cells is drastically overstated by many sources with a vested interest in preserving the production and sale of fossil fuels. They are almost entirely made of lithium and carbon, with lesser amounts of plastic (and a bit of steel for rigid cells). The cobalt, manganese, etc. are only used in very small amounts relative to the other components, depending on the exact chemistry.
posted by wierdo at 7:56 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


You do realize that non-electric vehicles are unable to move at all without burning hydrocarbons and emitting CO2, while electric vehicles can reduce the emission of carbon both through being powered by renewable sources and recapturing their kinetic energy while braking, something that conventional gas-powered vehicles are ill equipped to do?

No one of significance is advocating a "return to primitivism without energy", but are advocating moving to more fuel-efficient, renewable, environmentally friendlier technologies because if we don't we'll ruin the environment we depend on for our food, water, and air, and billions will die.
posted by Reverend John at 8:25 PM on August 11 [11 favorites]

We're actually advocating a move forward to a new golden age of innovation in energy efficiency and modern energy sources. Not anything at all like the primitivism we won't have any choice but to endure if we keep refusing to learn and innovate for the benefit of those who have monopoly power due to their ownership stakes in the obsolete technologies destroying our future and already sparking dangerous geopolitical tensions.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:36 PM on August 11 [7 favorites]

You do realize the electricity Tesla uses is substantially generated by coal

This is no longer the case in the US. Our electric generation is a lot cleaner than a few decades ago. Using electricity in most regions gets you 41 - 95 mpg equivalent in terms of emissions. The grid will continue to get cleaner.

As for batteries... companies like Tesla aim to recycle used batteries as much as possible. Advancements in battery chemistry may get us glass electrolyte solid state batteries. Safer, and faster charging.
posted by Mister Cheese at 8:42 PM on August 11 [8 favorites]

You do realize the electricity Tesla uses is substantially generated by coal, and that the mining of the elements used in the battery systems is horrendously damaging to the environment?

If we return to a primitivism without energy, billions will die.

This is such a strange comment. Partly because generating energy by non-polluting and sustainable means has been one of the primary goals of environmentalists and climate-change activists for as long as I've been alive (and abandoning energy generation never has, so where is this even coming from?) - and partly because it is exactly the massive consequences to human life that has people who take climate change seriously so freaked out.

Seriously, this is bizarre.
posted by trig at 6:04 AM on August 12 [9 favorites]

They are almost entirely made of lithium and carbon . . .

I've always understood the battery problem to be not so much with the specific chemical makeup of the batteries but with the invasive/disruptive mining practices that surround "rare earth" mineral extraction, especially in the . . . permissive markets where much of the mining happens.

Wherever they get their energy, Tesla is problematic for a whole bunch of other economic and social reasons, not least of which being that electric cars are a ridiculous stopgap measure in terms of transportation efficiency and help give investors a conscience bandaid so they can to continue to invest fuck-all in rail infrastructure.

Corporations, however well-intentioned, will not save us. But I suppose that's a little off topic.

Why does it matter if climate change is caused by humanity or not?

Wendell Berry made that point years ago, and it still resonates with me. The counterargument that we need to understand the mechanisms at work to address them is a sound one, but it doesn't get at the psychological emphasis that blocks a lot of people from taking it seriously - their brains get stuck on "man made," and that's less important to me than "FUCK WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE (FWAAGTD)."

FWAAGTD also causes a lot of people to just not be able to deal with it. Existential dread isn't something most people are well-equipped for, which is why we have concepts like "Purgatory" (and Camus and religion in general etc. etc.).

I think if we can get the consensus to "we all need to do something about this," that's a lot more important than assigning universal blame, insofar as it's possible, even if some of the problem is actually universal.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:34 AM on August 13

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