Record breaking temperatures bad for people, the planet and profit

Intro

2014 was officially the hottest year on record. According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Earth was the hottest it has been in millennia and perhaps as much as 100,000 years. On top of record-breaking global surface temperatures, a record amount of heat was also found in the oceans. NOAA says that in 2014 the oceans accumulated an amount of heat equivalent to about 200 million atomic bomb detonations. In conjunction with the news that the earth is moving closer to ‘irreversible changes’ as humanity crosses four so-called planetary boundaries, this should be another massive wake-up call for political and business leaders meeting in Davos this week. Indeed, the World Resources Institute (WRI) is warning that soaring temperatures will soon have a heavy cost for business, while progressive companies are showing that turning down the heat makes financial and environmental sense. But as commentators have underlined, all companies need to be ambitious on climate action, turn their back on fossil fuels and join the 100 per cent renewable energy transition. Switching to renewables is a smart decision for business and the future of humanity.

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MT @JohnMoralesNBC6 Record heat bad for business “If you’re < 30 global temp has been above average your whole life” http://onforb.es/1ABN3M6

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Infographic to share: 2014: The hottest year ever

Key Points

  • 2014 was the Earth’s hottest year since records began in 1880. The news was announced this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. They conclude that the average temperature across both land and ocean surfaces was 0.69 degrees C above the twentieth century average. This beats both previous record warm years, 2005 and 2010, and even more worryingly the temperature rise happened without the influence of an El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, an occasional event linked with unusually warm periods.
  • Experts are warning that increasing global temperatures are not only a threat to our way of life, but also to the way we do business. According to a blog post published by the World Resources Institute (WRI), this long-running record heat contributes to an expensive “new normal” for global businesses and national economies. WRI warns that shifting weather patterns and more extreme heat waves, storms and droughts fuelled by a changing climate raise business costs. On the other hand, there are economic benefits for those companies that decide to take firm climate action, as demonstrated by the recent New Climate Economy Report.

Background

2014 was the hottest year on record across the globe, US climate experts have confirmed. Analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA shows that last month was the warmest December on record, rounding off a year which saw temperature records set in September, May, June and August. Global average temperatures over land and sea in 2014 were 0.69C above the 20th century average, according to the data from NOAA.

The announcement follows similar findings from the Japanese Meteorological agency earlier this month, which showed a consensus by two of the world’s three main global weather data centres. Ocean temperatures in particular experienced record warmth, with seven consecutive months setting new records for surface ocean heat. December 2014 also represented the 358th consecutive month where the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was above average.

2014 as a whole was also the 38th consecutive year of above average temperatures. The year came in at 0.69C above the 20th century average, and and was 0.04C higher than the previous records set in 2005 and 2010, according to the data.

Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies said: “Any one year being a record warm one is not in itself particularly significant, but this is one in a series of record warm years that are driven by the continuing underlying long-term global warming. We expect that heat records will continue to get broken – not everywhere and not every year – but increasingly and that does not bode well for a civilisation that is continuing to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at an increasing rate.”

The latest findings are likely to further spur calls from around the world for leaders to support strong climate action. Later this year, leaders from 192 countries will meet in Paris for the UN climate summit where they are expected to agreement a new global climate agreement to steer the world away from the critical danger threshold of 2C of warming and towards a low carbon energy future. With the world’s leading body of scientists warning we could cross that threshold within just 30 years without drastic cuts to emissions, this latest study adds further weight to the calls from NGOs and governments for a complete phase out of carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

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Key Quotes

  • “Any one year being a record warm one is not in itself particularly significant, but this is one in a series of record warm years that are driven by the continuing underlying long-term global warming. We expect that heat records will continue to get broken – not everywhere and not every year – but increasingly and that does not bode well for a civilisation that is continuing to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at an increasing rate.” – Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies

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  • MT @climaterisk 2014, the hottest year on record, business leaders thinking about the range of risks moving forward http://reut.rs/1sS36HW
  • MT ‏@michaeloko It’s official: 2014 is the hottest year on record. WRI’s take on what this means for business. http://onforb.es/1ABN3M6
  • MT @ClimateGroup “We should not forget that we all have a responsibility as citizens, not just as business leaders” IKEA CSO @_StephenHoward