2016 to be hottest year on record

2016 will likely be the third consecutive year that shatters global temperature records, according to the World Meteorological Organization. (Fosco Lucarelli/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 15, 2016

The World Meteorological Organization (WHO) released a report yesterday which predicts 2016 to be hottest year on record.

The report, which was published at the global climate summit in Morocco, found the current global temperature to be 34 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. Earth’s global temperature has reached a new peak for the last two years, and 2016 could make three. Experts say that the El Niño weather phenomenon is partly responsible for higher temperatures during the first part of the year, but human activity can be blamed for the rest. Petteri Taalas is the WMO secretary general. He said, “Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen. Once in a generation heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular.”

Extreme heat waves have been reported around the world throughout the year. Temperatures soared to 109 degrees Fahrenheit in South Africa in January, 112 degrees Fahrenheit in Thailand in April and 129 degrees Fahrenheit in Kuwait during July. WMO stated that at least half of the extreme weather events of recent years have been human-induced, they noted that the risk of extreme heat has increased by ten fold in some places. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has found extreme weather and climate-related events effect the farming and food security of over 60 million people worldwide.

Climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University responded to the report. He said,

“It is almost as if mother nature is making a statement. Just as one of the planet’s two largest emitters of carbon has elected a climate change denier [Donald Trump] – who has threatened to pull out of the Paris accord – to the highest office, she reminds us that she has the final word.”

Mann added, “Climate change is not like other issues that can be postponed from one year to the next. The US and world are already behind; speed is of the essence, because climate change and its impacts are coming sooner and with greater ferocity than anticipated.”

Not all of the report’s findings were negative. Carbon emissions have largely stabilized over the last three years after decades of growth, which experts say is mostly due to China burning less coal. Also, even though 2017 promises to be an extremely hot year, it most likely will not break records.

Air pollution kills 600,000 children annually

The report found that 450 million children in East Asia and the Pacific are living in areas with hazardous levels of air pollutants. (Chris Aston/Flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 1, 2016

Some two billion children worldwide are breathing air that contains pollutants which exceed the minimum air quality standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a recent report from UNICEF.

The first of its kind, the study used satellite imagery in order to determine areas that contain the highest concentrations of air pollutants. It revealed that roughly 300 million children live in places “where outdoor air pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times.” While 92 percent of the world’s total population breathes air containing dangerous levels of pollutants, experts say that children are especially vulnerable. The report stated that children breathe about twice as quickly as adults, which means they can inhale more air relative to their body weight. Their lungs are also still developing and may be more prone to infection. Air pollution accounts for 1 in 10 deaths of children under the age of five, and takes the lives of about 600,000 children of the same age range annually.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement, “Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs — they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains — and, thus, their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.” The report elaborated upon the social and economic implications of breathing highly polluted air. It read,

“The combination of respiratory, cardiovascular, cognitive, morbidity and reproductive health effects of air pollution have biological as well as social and economic effects that last a lifetime. These include health conditions, school attendance, school performance, health costs and productivity, which affect income, poverty and inequalities. Air pollution, through its massive and cumulative impact on the overall health and well-being of children and parents, can perpetuate intergenerational cycles of inequality.”

Experts say the issue is exacerbated by industrialization, with the majority of outdoor air pollution attributable to vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, burning of waste, and dust. In a statement, UNICEF asked countries attending the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference to tackle issues related to air quality for children directly. The report said, “Unless action is taken to control outdoor air pollution, studies show that outdoor air pollution will become the leading cause of environment-related child death by 2050.”