The 5 hottest years on Earth have all occurred since 2010, NASA reports

As warming soars, new studies project catastrophe under Trump climate policies

Earth’s average global temperature from 2013 to 2017 compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980. Yellows, oranges, and reds show regions warmer than the baseline. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio
Earth’s average global temperature from 2013 to 2017 compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980. Yellows, oranges, and reds show regions warmer than the baseline. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

No matter what the president tries to claim, the latest science confirms global warming is continuing at an alarming pace, it’s entirely driven by human activity, and his climate policies will lead to disaster.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their annual global temperature data Thursday morning, confirming that 2017 smashed the record for the hottest year on record without an El Niño. NASA further reported that “the five warmest years on Earth have all occurred since 2010.”

This has scientists particularly concerned because the hottest years typically occur when the underlying human-caused global warming trend gets a temporary boost from an El Niño enhanced warming in the tropical Pacific. “All the natural influences should have made the year cooler than normal, not hotter than normal,” as professor of thermal sciences John Abraham explained to ThinkProgress.

And last year wasn’t an anomaly. In fact, “2017 is just the latest in a series of warm years that add up to a major significant trend over the last 40 years and longer,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told ThinkProgress. “Those trends are both explainable and predictable into the future as the consequence of emitting greenhouse gases (like CO2 and CH4).”

The culprit? “Basically all of the warming in the last 60 years is attributable to human activity,” Schmidt explained to reporters in a joint press call with NOAA. “Carbon dioxide emissions are the number one component of that.”

In short, we’re seeing significant human-caused warming, and it’s going to continue.

Interestingly, while both NASA and NOAA report that the last three years are the three hottest on record, NASA reports 2017 was the second hottest year on record, and NOAA reported it was the third hottest. NASA and NOAA both track surface global temperature data and independently produce their own records. The difference comes because NOAA’s analysis does not take into account temperatures in most of the Arctic, the region of the world warming the fastest, whereas NASA does.

This latest data comes hot on the heels of two major new studies that make clear the dangers of the Trump administration’s numerous policies favoring increased burning of fossil fuels instead of greater use of carbon-free renewables.

A study last month in the journal Nature concluded that “models that simulate today’s climate best tend to be the models that project the most global warming over the remainder of the twenty-first century.” It found higher likelier warming on business-as-usual emissions — the very policies being pursued by Trump.

That study also found “narrower ranges of future global warming across the major” greenhouse gas emissions scenarios projected for this century. It ruled out the low-end warming scenarios, the ones that advocates of climate inaction have often promoted to justify their do-nothing policies.

A new study in Nature led by climatologist Peter Cox finds also finds “tighter constraints” on the range of future warming. It projects more moderate but still catastrophic levels of warming if emissions levels stay high. Comparing the two studies, Cox explained to the Washington Post, “What we both do is say the low values are unlikely. We also think the high values are unlikely, they think they’re likely.”

In short, aggressive climate action can still avoid the worst impacts, but inaction will prove catastrophic.