Last year proved to be the Earth’s hottest since humanity started keeping track, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Independent analyses by NASA and NOAA revealed that globally- averaged temperatures in 2015 surpassed 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, 2016 is expected to surpass 2015 in terms of average temperatures.
The last time the new record exceeded the old record by that much was in 1998, but thanks to increased human-made emissions, global average temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century.
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said 2015 is part of an ongoing chain of consecutively rising temperatures for the past three decades, 15 of the warmest occurring between 2001 and now.
Partly to blame are phenomena like El Niño or La Niña, which contribute to temporary variation in global average temperatures by warming or cooling the Pacific Ocean. There was a warming El Niño ongoing for most of 2015, although GISS director Gavin Schmidt believes the year was remarkable without it.
“Last year’s temperatures had an assist from El Niño,” Schmidt said. “But it is the cumulative effect of the long-term trend that has resulted in the record warming that we are seeing.”
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, there is more than a 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250
years have warmed our planet. Furthermore, there is a more than 90 percent probability human- produced greenhouse gases have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years.
Moreover, the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios projects “an increase of global GHG emissions by 25 to 90% between 2000 and 2030, with fossil fuels maintaining their dominant position in the global energy mix to 2030 and beyond.”
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA administrator
Charles Bolden in a Jan. 20 news article that announced the 2015 surface temperature news. “Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act on climate.”
According to an early 2014 Pew Research Center poll, many Americans agree, with 71 percent saying the government should do whatever it takes to protect the environment. Although that number is higher among Democrats at 88 percent, 50 percent of Republicans also agree.
Consequently, many 2016 presidential candidates have discussed the climate change issue.
Bernie Sanders, who referred to climate change as “the single greatest threat facing the planet,” has proposed taxes on carbon emissions and eliminating tax breaks for fossil fuel companies. Hillary Clinton set a goal to produce one-third of U.S. electricity using renewable sources by 2027.
Although Republicans are less likely to believe in the necessity of climate regulations, some GOP candidates have proposed their own plans. Chris Christie has called for a “global solution” rather than unilateral cuts by the United States and Carly Fiorina supports tax credits for renewable energy.