GREENBELT – Earth’s global surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth hottest since 1880, continuing a streak of record high temperatures, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The causes are varied, but according to Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the rise in temperature is primarily due to increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activity.
“(The year) 2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said Schmidt.
The past five years have been the hottest since the 1880s when consistent and accurate global temperature tracking was made available. As the fourth-hottest year on record, 2018 is behind 2016, 2017 and 2015, in that order.
The average global surface temperature has risen about two degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s, while global temperatures in 2018 alone were about 1.5 degrees warmer than the average temperature between 1951 and 1980.
An increase in temperature can have devastating effects on the ecosystem and, as a result, human society. The warming trend has contributed to the continued loss of sea ice, sea level rises due to mass loss from Antarctica and Greenland and may contribute to longer fire seasons and extreme weather events, according to Schmidt.
The warmer climate has, in turn, made the fire seasons burn hotter and longer, resulting in 71,189 acres burned in the U.S. alone, according to NASA. According to the NOAA/NASA Annual Global Analysis for 2018, one of the natural disasters that were affected by an intense fire season was the Western wildfires in California that caused over $24 billion in direct losses as well as multiple lives lost.
“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Schmidt.
Climate change is taking root at the state level as well, as lawmakers realize that the effects are immediate and inevitable if the course we are does not change. Rep. Jamie Raskin, (D-Md), invited environmentalist Bill McKibben to the State of The Union Address as his guest, issuing a call to arms to combat climate change.
As well, Raskin stated that “climate change is not an issue, but the whole context in which we need to decide every other issue, whether it is infrastructure, trade policy, transportation or agriculture.”
“It is an imperative to overcome our political divisions and mobilize the whole country and the nations of the world to overcome our carbon addiction and enact pragmatic renewable energy policies that will save us from rising oceans, cataclysmic weather events, drought and floods, and all the traumas of the era of climate change,” said Raskin in a press release.
McKibben echoed Raskin’s thoughts, stating that Raskin supports a Green New Deal bill, legislation introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), that resolves to reduce the U.S.’ environmental footprint while adding jobs and stimulating the economy, among other goals.
“I also look forward to multiple House hearings on the staggering financial costs of climate change to states and localities, the current status of scientific data on climate change and the legal and moral responsibility of the oil companies for our current predicament,” said McKibben.