April was the hottest April in recorded history. March was the hottest March. Ditto for February – and each of the nine preceding months. This has been happening for a year now – 12 straight months of record-high temperatures. That had never happened before.
And these records aren’t just getting broken. They’re getting shattered, stomped, and ground into dust: The last four months have been so crazy hot, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies says there is now a 99.9 percent probability that 2016 will be the hottest year on record. As Bloomberg notes, if that projection bears out, 2016 will be the third consecutive hottest year on record. That’s never happened before.
While the primary culprit here is manmade climate change, El Niño is certainly a co-conspirator. This year’s big ol’ patch of warm Pacific Ocean water is unusually large – but it’s not the biggest El Niño on record. Thus, if it weren’t occurring beneath an atmosphere thick with the refuse of industrial civilization, we wouldn’t be seeing these kinds of temperatures.
The Earth has been offering plenty of signs that it would really appreciate it if we turned down the heat a bit. In the Arctic, ice levels are down to record lows for this time of year. By summer, the North Pole ice cap will be the smallest we’ve ever seen. Scientists believe we’re in the middle of the largest coral die-off in recorded history. The West Antarctic ice sheet is melting faster than we’d previously thought. Wildfires are eating Canada.
The record hot spell is already making the 1.5 degree Celsius warming target set in Paris last December look impossible.
“The 1.5C target, it’s wishful thinking. I don’t know if you’d get 1.5C if you stopped emissions today. There’s inertia in the system. It’s putting intense pressure on 2C,” Andy Pitman, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told The Guardian.
The next time you see a small child, wish them good luck.