Temperatures just keep getting hotter, and last month marks the hottest June in our planet’s history. This is the third year in a row that the temperature in June has exceeded its previous monthly average (for your consideration, here are our reports from June 2015 and June 2014).
This has proven to be a spicy year, bringing us the warmest May, April, March, February and probably July we’ve ever experienced. In fact, 2016 has broken its ninth straight global heat record. Rising temperatures and climatic alterations bring with them a number of harmful consequences, including melting ice in the Arctic. This June brought record highs of 70+ degrees to areas like Greenland, which may sound ideal if you’re in California but a death sentence if you’re a polar bear.
“It has been a record year so far for global temperatures,” says NASA scientist Walt Meier. “But the record high temperatures over the past six months have been even more extreme. The warmth, as well as unusual weather patterns, have led to the record low sea ice extents so far this year.”
Ice typically disappears during the summer months, but the process was never cause for panic before. In decades past, melted ice was replenished the following winter, but now ice is depleting faster than it can be replaced. This causes a number of problems for Arctic species, which require cooler temperatures to survive.
Humans are also at risk. As ice shrinks due to growing carbon emissions and climate change, there are fewer coolants protecting the Earth’s poles. Heat and radiation from the sun take even greater tolls on the growing population.
El Niño patterns began in April 2015, but as it recedes, scientists have explained that carbon emissions are likely the primary cause of rising temperatures (having practically doubled in the last 200 years).
“While the El Nino event in the tropical Pacific this winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these numbers,” explains NASA’s Gavin Schmidt.
Several regions are taking massive steps towards reducing carbon footprints. EU leaders, for example, have released a new package detailing measures that member nations can follow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to 40 percent by the year 2030. EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete states:
“The EU has an ambitious emissions reduction target, one I am convinced we can achieve through the collective efforts of Member states. The national binding targets we are proposing are fair, flexible and realistic. They set the right incentives to unleash investments in sectors like transport, agriculture, buildings and waste management. With these proposals, we are showing that we have done our homework and that we keep our promises.”
The U.S. is also invoking the Clean Power Plan (CPP) to achieve a 32 percent cut in emissions from 2005 levels within the same timeframe, although several factors are likely to affect whether goals are reached.
“It’s still conceivable to meet CPP this year, depending on the weather and how much further natural gas prices will rise,” explains environmental engineering professor Daniel Cohan.