After 30 years the heat really is on

17 Mar, 2015 10:42 AM
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For the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth

BACK in February 1985, The Heat Is On by rock legend Glenn Frey was near the top of the music charts and has unwittingly become something of an anthem for the global climate ever since.

Last month capped 30 years in which average monthly temperatures worldwide have been warmer than the average for the 20th century. That's 360 consecutive months.

And that warming trend, which scientists say is mostly the result of a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, remains strong - although there are finally signs that carbon emissions may be peaking.

February 2015 was either second or third warmest on record for the month, depending on US or Japanese government data. It was also warm enough to make the past 12 months the hottest such period in records going back to 1880, according to US space agency NASA, and comes after 2014 was declared the warmest calendar year recorded.

For Australia, one has to go back even earlier than Frey's hit song to find a hotter February. Last month was pipped only by February 1983 in terms of both average maximum or mean temperature, according to Bureau of Meteorology records going back to 1910.

Malte Meinshausen, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne's school of earth sciences, said 30 years is a common period used by climate scientists to gauge trends beyond natural variations.

"We had a warming trend detected all through the 20th century ... and then it really kicked off in the 1970s," Professor Meinshausen said.

Global surface temperatures have been rising at about 0.2 degrees a decade, and recent research predicts that rate is accelerating, he said.

Climate change will likely remain a key issue this year, with international talks scheduled for Paris, France, for late this year to hammer out a new global treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale on Monday blamed climate change for enhancing the power of Cyclone Pam that slammed his Pacific island nation over the weekend. Scientists say warming will increase the likelihood of more powerful storms.

40-year break

If February marked 30 years of consecutive warm months, there was a more positive development with the International Energy Agency declaring over the weekend that 2014 was the first year in the past 40 in which carbon emissions didn't grow.

According to the agency, carbon dioxide emissions totalled 32.3 billion tonnes last year, unchanged from 2013 even as the global economy expanded about three per cent.

"This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one," International Energy Agency (IEA) chief economist Fatih Birol said in a statement. "It provides much needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth."

Professor Meinshausen said the stall in emissions was "at least a start".

"It's the entry requirement for whatever low-carbon future we want to see," he said

Should greenhouse gas emissions remain at the current annual level, however, the world will likely warm three to four degrees by 2100 compared with pre-industrial levels.

"We have to aim for zero net CO2 emissions by the second half of the 21st century," Professor Meinshausen said.

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READER COMMENTS

mememine69
17/03/2015 12:07:16 PM

What do deniers call 34 continuous years of "believers" failing to achieve climate action to SAVE THE PLANET EARTH? Total victory! If science isn't "allowed" to say their own; "threat to the planet" is more than 99% proven then quote one CO2 scientist that ever said it besides Joe Biden. Liberals exaggerated vague science just to hate conservatives and the last 34 years of climate action failure proves it 100%. Now who's the fear mongering neocon?
Sandman
17/03/2015 12:58:19 PM

34 years is a drop in the ocean, the temperature rise over that time is that small you not only can't feel it , you can hardly measure it on the most accurate thermometers, the temperature increase has been entirely good and beneficial and no matter what anyone tells you, not one person can prove the cause.
Gumtree
17/03/2015 1:17:04 PM

This is the heat that finished 20 years ago and has not only stopped, but looks like its going backwards into the next iceage fast. One only has to look at the number of record cold winters, record cold temperatures and record snow falls that are going on around the world to see that dangerous anthropogenic global warming is a totally over exaggerated beat-up.
Old Crow
17/03/2015 1:22:25 PM

http://pickeringpost.com/glance/t oo-many-wild-cards-in-the-climate -game/4652
Noosa
17/03/2015 1:46:20 PM

Since around 1980 we have had an increase of around 11% of plant life in arid areas thanks largely to the aerial fertilization from atmospheric carbon dioxide. The increase in the earth's atmosphere of carbon dioxide is the best thing that has ever happened and is helping crop growers around the world with better yields. http://joannenova.com.au/2013/06/ arid-regions-of-the-world-are-11- greener-thanks-to-co2/#more-28713
nico
17/03/2015 2:39:08 PM

Everything is for the best, isn't it, Sandman, in this best of all possible worlds. (Voltaire). But hang on ... isn't the whole point of Candide that mindless optimism has dire consequences? Smart fellow, that Voltaire.
E. J.
17/03/2015 5:05:47 PM

The whole story is straight out of IPCC propaganda. IPCC is made up of about 2500 government (political) appointees. To date 31,487 scientists, including over 9000 with PhDs, have signed the Global Warming Petition Project debunking the theory of anthropogenic (man made)global warming. According to satelite data there has been no global warming for 18 years, nor has there been any rise in sea levels in that time. BOM's own data shows no increase in the number of or severity of cyclones for years. Also sea water is Ph8.2, neutral is 7 so it is a long way from acid.
nico
18/03/2015 6:20:28 AM

EJ, you are wrong on every count, starting with the fraudulent Petition. More importantly, you need to understand the effects of the changing ph of seawater. A good starter is here: http://www.scientificamerican.com /article/rising-acidity-in-the-oc ean/
Old Crow
18/03/2015 7:40:30 AM

Nico has no answers to any of the posts here and is clutching at straws.
Bill Pounder
18/03/2015 8:13:05 AM

Giant shelled cephalopods—the ammonites—were widespread during the Mesozoic, a time when CO2 was up to 1,800ppmv. https://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress. com/2012/03/29/giant-ammonite-fos sils/ Graph: Global Temperature and Atmospheric CO2 over Geologic Time Compared to former geologic times, our present atmosphere, like the Late Carboniferous atmosphere, is CO2 impoverished! http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils /Carboniferous_climate.html
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