File this story under “more bad news for the environment.” Yesterday, NASA released a report indicating that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record, continuing a disturbing trend that began in 2001. Since the arrival of the 21st century, 18 of the 19 warmest years since meteorological data has been kept have occurred, with data dating back 140 years.
“The five warmest years have, in fact, been the last five years,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the NASA group that conducted the analysis. “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future. It’s here. It’s now.”
The impact of climate change is already being felt according to Schmidt, who points to a blazing heatwave in Australia, as well as deep droughts and coastal flooding in the U.S. as evidence. Worse yet, climate change seems to be creating stronger hurricanes and is linked to the polar vortex that has brought incredibly cold conditions to the United States and Europe in recent years.
The study is quick to point out that the Earth has certainly seen extended periods that have been hotter and colder than what we’re currently experiencing, but it has never seen such a sharp rise in temperatures over a relatively short period of time. In 2018, the average temperature of the planet was 1ºC (1.8ºF) warmer than it was throughout the 19th century. That may not seem like much, but its cumulative effect is striking, with much of the warm-up coming over the past 25 years or so. In geological terms, that is a millisecond of time.
The rise in temperature also correlates directly with the industrialization of the planet as well. As man began pumping out more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, temperatures began to shift upwards. This has prompted many warnings from climatologists who say we can’t allow the temperature to rise more than 2ºC (3.6ºF) or the impact will be catastrophic. Unfortunately, at this point in history it looks like that number is an inevitability that won’t be avoided.
There is an old African proverb that says “we don’t inherit the Earth from our parents, we have it on loan from our children.” Right now, it seems we’re not being very good stewards of the planet.