Reprinted from Smirking Chimp
If you or someone you know needs proof that global climate change is real and is happening before our very eyes, you could go to the "State of the Climate Report" put together by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
But just turning on the television or opening the newspaper these days should be enough to raise alarms.
Over the weekend for instance, Ellicott City, just up the road in Maryland, was nearly washed away in a 1,000-year flooding event similar to what recently happened in West Virginia.
Across the world, more than 150 people were killed in floods in India and 1.1 million more Indians were displaced in flooding that wiped out large swatches of infrastructure and agricultural land.
Out in the Western United States, firefighters north of Los Angeles were finally able to control the "Sand Fire" that burned for nearly two weeks, destroyed 18 homes and burned a total of more than 41,000 acres, meanwhile the "Soberanes Fire" has already scorched more than 43,000 acres and has only been 18 percent contained.
And in fact, 10 of the 20 largest wildfires in California's history have burned in the last 10 years.
Then there are the risks of climate change that don't have to do with extreme weather events, like the toxic algal blooms off of the coast of Florida, or the dormant anthrax that's been released from the melting soils in Siberia, or the Cold War-era nuclear research site in the Greenland ice sheet that could leech biological, chemical and radioactive waste into the environment as that ice sheet melts.
In response to the State of the Climate report that NOAA released, renowned climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann told the Guardian that, "The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are playing out before us, in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home."
The report describes a "toppling of several symbolic mileposts" in 2015, and makes it clearer than ever that climate change is real, that human activity is the primary driver and that we're watching the effects play out in real time.
The year 2015 was one-tenth of a degree Celsius hotter than 2014, making it the warmest year on record; but, based on the fact that the last 14 months have all been record-breaking months, 2016 is likely to take that record from 2015.
Our oceans also saw record breaking oceanic temperatures in 2015: The Pacific was 2 degrees Celsius warmer than the long-term average, and the Arctic reached a shocking 8 degrees Celsius above average.
Other significant changes described in the State of the Climate report for 2015 include the Arctic hitting its lowest recorded maximum sea ice extent in February of 2015, the world's alpine glaciers registering a net annual loss of ice for the 36th year in a row, and the Greenland ice sheet melting over more than 50 percent of its surface.
This year, Greenland's melt season started two months earlier than usual and scientists are now very concerned about what could happen if this rate of warming continues, or accelerates.
But what's really terrifying isn't the melting itself, it's what will be released if we don't take immediate action to curb the climate change that's happened because of the 350 billion tons of carbon we've already burned into the atmosphere since 1850.