Temperature records smashed as Trump takes office

Intro

As Donald Trump prepared to deliver the Presidential inauguration speech and lead his team of fossil fuel cronies into the White House, NASA, NOAA, the World Meteorological Organisation and the MET Office announced that 2016 was the hottest year since records began, underlining the real and present danger posed by man-made climate change to prosperity and security. Top scientists from around the world have reminded leaders that last year extreme weather, sea-level rise and coral bleaching caused major disruption and that the economic damages incurred by global warming have already reached into the billions of dollars.

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Key Points

  • Intensifying climate change impacts can’t be dismissed because they don’t fit a political agenda – they threaten global prosperity and security. In some corners political forces with an ideological resistance to climate action are on the rise but NASA, NOAA, the World Meteorological Organisation and the MET Office have provided a timely reminder that global warming is unmoved by fake news or bigotry. 2016 was the hottest year on record, marking the 3rd consecutive year this record was smashed. Unprecedented heatwaves hit South Africa, Thailand, Kuwait and India, while warming oceans caused massive coral bleaching of the Great Barrier reef. In the US the 15 most destructive extreme weather events of 2016 cost a total of $46 billion and caused 138 deaths.
  • The incoming US administration is uniquely unqualified to protect Americans from climate change, though there is little it can do to slow the unstoppable transition to clean, renewable energy. It could prove tricky for Trump’s people to effectively work with agencies like The Pentagon and CIA – which consider climate change a massive national security threat – given a full third of his team has ties to the Koch brothers and their robust history of funding climate denial. These same ball-and-chain fossil fuel ties make them ill-equipped to seize and reap the benefits of clean energy expansion that offers far more potential jobs than coal or oil industries. Last year US solar jobs grew by 25 per cent while wind jobs increased 32 per cent compared to a five per cent job growth across all energy sectors.
  • As the US teeters on the verge of an unstable and likely regressive administration coming to power, China and India have signaled intent to take leadership positions in race to expand renewables and tackle climate change. Chinese Premier Xi Jinping again backed the Paris Agreement at the World Economic Summit, urging others to do the same. He did so just days after China halted the development of more than 100 coal-fired power plants and pledged to invest a whopping $360bn in renewable energy projects over the next three years. Also this week India’s energy minister pledged to end imports of coal, dealing the industry another major blow (especially in Australia, which hopes to expand its coal exports to India), and said that the new US government will have no impact on his country’s extensive plans to install 100GW of renewable energy by 2020.

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KEY QUOTES

On record temperatures

  • “2016 was an extreme year for the global climate and stands out as the hottest year on record but temperatures only tell part of the story. Carbon dioxide and methane concentrations surged to new records. We have also broken sea ice minimum records in the Arctic and Antarctic” –  Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General at the World Meteorological Organisation
  • “For the first time in recorded history, we have now had three consecutive record-warm years for both the globe and the Northern Hemisphere. The effect of human activity on our climate is no longer subtle. It’s plain as day, as are the impacts—in the form of record floods, droughts, superstorms and wildfires—that it is having on us and our planet.” – Michael Mann, Climate Scientist
  • “The conditions experienced in the past year shows us the sort of thing that will become routine in a decade or so. The costs from the added boost from global warming are in the tens of billions of dollars each year. – Kevin Trenberth, Climate Scientist
  • “The hottest year on record is such a clear warning siren that even president-elect Trump cannot ignore it. The idea of a pause or a hiatus in global warming must now be abandoned.” – Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London
  • “2016 has been announced as the hottest year ever. If there was ever a time for urgent action on climate change, it is now. Even as global momentum for addressing this crisis is increasing, nature persistently reminds us that we have to pick up the pace.” – Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, head of Global Climate and Energy Practice at WWF

On climate leadership

  • “Think of long distance bicycle races in Olympics we are seeing the formation of a large peloton. It’s important that major economies are in front but if the reality is the US slips back a bit that’s not the end of the world if the peloton is continuing to press on in broadly same pace.” – Nick Hurd, UK Climate Minister
  • “The Paris Agreement is a hard-won agreement… all signatories should stick to it instead of walking away – it is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.” – Xi Jinping, Chinese Premier
  • “India doesn’t interfere in any other country’s elections and we respect the fact that America has chosen its leader. However, clean energy is not something that we are working on because somebody else wants us to do it. It’s a matter of faith and the faith of the leadership in India. Nothing on Earth is going to stop us from doing that.” – Piyush Goyal, Indian Energy Minister
  • “With an incoming U.S. administration uncertain to provide necessary leadership, we can take up the mantle to be the leaders our citizens elected us to be, or let the growing threats of climate change determine the future of our cities.” – Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta and Greg Stanton, Mayor of Phoenix
  • “We want the U.S. economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy. Cost-effective and innovative solutions can help us achieve these objectives. Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.” – 630+ US businesses and investors
  • The U.S. political situation provides an external driver for China to go forward from being a reluctant leader to climate hero.” – Li Shuo, policy advisor at Greenpeace

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