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2017 Breaks Climate Records Despite No "El Nino Boost"

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From Down With Tyranny


Global surface temperatures relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP data, which employs GHCN.v3 for meteorological stations, NOAA ERSST.v5 for sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research station data[1].'
(Image by 'Global Temperature in 2018' by James Hansen.)
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This is an update on the coming climate train wreck. The numbers are in for 2017, not just the global temperature itself (see graph above), but also the clearly climate-related damage that was done -- the fires, hurricanes and other extreme-weather events. 2017 ranks in the top five hottest years on record, and broke the record for climate-related damage.

About global temperature in 2017, look at the chart above and note three things.

With No El Nino, 2017 Was Still the Second Hottest Year in the Instrumental Record

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First, the two most recent "super El Nino" events, in 1997-98 and 2015-16, clearly represented peaks or spikes in global warming, while the intervening years hung close to the 12-month and 132-month running means.

Not so in 2017. Despite the lack of El Nino conditions in 2017, the year still placed second on the list of the hottest years ever recorded. Dr. James Hansen:

"Global surface temperature in 2017 was the second highest in the period of instrumental measurements in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) analysis. Relative to average temperature for 1880-1920, which we take as an appropriate estimate of 'pre-industrial' temperature, 2017 was +1.17 degreesC (~2.1 degreesF) warmer than in the 1880-1920 base period. The high 2017 temperature, unlike the record 2016 temperature, was obtained without any boost from tropical El Nino warming."
This should be concerning to everyone, for the reason explained below.

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(By the way, note that the statement above covers only "global surface temperature" and not oceanic warming as well, especially deep oceanic warming. The entire planet is being heated by our use of fossil fuel, not just the surface.)

The Rate of Global Warming May Be Accelerating

Second, this data means we may be entering a period of accelerated warming. I think most people assume that global warming and its effects will be linear, will proceed along a roughly straight line that allows us to calculate how much we can delay in dealing with it. Not so.

I've argued for some time that linearity is not guaranteed, is in fact highly unlikely, and that the chief cause of global warming, the injection of CO2 into the atmosphere, seems already to have accelerated. In a piece earlier last year, "Atmospheric CO2 Jumps +4 ppm in June Compared to June 2015," I wrote:
"Consider a simple calculation. Most governments that try to show they are interested in ending man-made CO2 emissions have 'exit rates' -- rates at which humans go to zero emissions -- which nonetheless have us increasing emissions as late as 2050. The underlying assumption is that if we start the count at 400 ppm in 2014 (per the monthly chart at the above), then add +2.11 ppm per year, we don't get to 450 ppm for roughly 20-25 years (allowing for modest acceleration in the growth rate). But if atmospheric CO2 growth suddenly zooms to +4 ppm/year starting with this year's 406 ppm, we're at 450 ppm in 11 years."
As I noted then, eleven years from now is 2027, and 450 ppm is game-over -- partly because global warming will have shot well past +2 degreesC, producing enough social, political, economic and military chaos to make a global solution impossible; and partly because if we haven't stopped Exxon et al before then, we never will, and the process will go to termination.

Here's what "goes to termination" means: Humans won't stop adding atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gasses until we're pre-industrial again. Or worse.

"Pre-industrial or worse" is not what we want for our species. "We" in the previous sentence includes only the non-sociopaths among us -- those of us not in charge of U.S. and global energy policy.

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Global Warming Has Already Reached +1.2-1.4 Degrees Above Pre-Industrial, Depending on How "Pre-Industrial" Is Defined

Third, note again Hansen's comment that "Relative to average temperature for 1880-1920, which we take as an appropriate estimate of 'pre-industrial' temperature, 2017 was +1.17 degreesC (~2.1 degreesF) warmer than in the 1880-1920 base period." If you look at the chart above, you'll see that the 2015-2016 high was roughly +1.2 degreesC above what Hansen defines as "pre-industrial temperature."

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A writer who contributes to a number of publications, including digby's Hullabaloo, Down With Tyranny, Naked Capitalism, Truthout and Alternet.

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