Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s pick for EPA chairman, said during questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing that he does “not believe climate change is a hoax,” breaking from a position touted at least once by his soon-to-be boss. “Science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change,” Pruitt also said, which is at least a small improvement on his previous statements, though he added, “The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue, and well it should be.”
On one hand, it’s good to nail down that climate change is real, but another piece of news today makes Pruitt’s squishiness on the human role in the warming pretty unsettling: For the third consecutive year, the world notched its highest temperatures, making 2016 the hottest year ever recorded. It crushed 2015, the previous titleholder; 2014 is the now the second runner-up.
“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” Deke Arndt, who monitors global climate for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the New York Times. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”
Last year’s surface temperatures ticked .07 degrees Fahrenheit higher than 2015, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The average land and ocean temperature was 58.69 degrees Fahrenheit in 2016, well above the 20th-century average of 57 degrees.
Recordkeeping on this data began in 1880, so Earth is breaking more-than-century-old records. Scientists do believe that the weather phenomenon El Niño, which began in 2015 and was expected to be one of the strongest in years, contributed to the temperature upticks. So it’s unlikely we’ll see a four-peat in 2017. Even so, according to NASA — which backed up NOAA’s findings — the planet has sweated through 16 of the 17 hottest years on record since 2001.
NOAA’s and NASA’s findings (which use different methodologies, but came to the same conclusions) come on the heels of some other disturbing climate indicators. Satellite imagery shows global sea ice at its lowest levels in the almost four decades since such data began being captured. The sea-ice extent near Antarctica hit a record low in November, though it may be an anomaly. But this is a trend in the Arctic, which also has had record-low ice extent for consecutive months, and hit above-average temperatures in what should have been the coldest months of the year.
A new study also says that in the not-so-distant future New York will likely lose two weeks of pleasant weather in the summer — the study defined them as between 68 and 86 degrees with low humidity and no more than a trace of rain. Get ready to spend more time in air-conditioned rooms.