Hot In Here

2015 set the record for setting heat records.

2015 Set The Record For Setting Heat Records

It’s official: 2015 was Earth’s hottest year since record keeping began in 1880, according to data released by NASA and NOAA yesterday. And it turns out it wasn’t even close. Last year shattered the previous record, set in 2014, by the widest margin on record. Global temperature records are normally measured in hundredths of degrees Fahrenheit, but NOAA reported yesterday that 2015 beat the previous record set in 2014 by almost three tenths of a degree.

Last year’s strong El Nino weather pattern helped push 2015 over the threshold, but the heat started early in the year and gained strength steadily, right up to the end of the year with record breaking temperatures over the holiday season. In fact, ten out of 12 months in the year set heat records. In the continental United States, however, last year was the second-warmest year on record, topped only slightly by 2012.

News of record breaking heat has been sounding like a broken record for a while. But this year’s data paints a startling picture of the future of climate change. It is still too soon to say for sure, but the record breaking heat records of 2014 and 2015 could suggest the world is back onto a trajectory of rapid global warming. What we can confirm is that 15 of NOAA’s 16 hottest-recorded years have occurred since 2000 and last year was the 39th consecutive year in which global temperatures have been higher than the 20th century average. The record heat has come with serious consequences: last year was chock-full of unprecedented weather events, which taken together serve as strong evidence of climate change. And it should serve as a preview of the type of extreme weather that will become increasingly common in a warming world.

News of the hottest year on record comes a week before the Senate—one of the only government bodies in the world (another being the U.S. House of Representatives) that denies the science behind climate change—will try to pass a major overhaul of U.S. energy policy for the first time since 2007. The bill, which includes expediting natural gas exports, implementing new efficiency programs, promoting efforts to modernize pipelines, and more, has started off on strong bipartisan footing, but with 70 percent of Republicans in the Senate denying or questioning the science behind climate change, party differences are all but certain to arise.

Also on the heels of the announcement, the Clean Power Plan survived its first legal challenge today. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to leave the rule in place while it hears lawsuits challenging the President’s landmark climate plan, which would help reduce dangerous carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. A vast majority of states, even the 26 suing the EPA, are in the midst of preparing their own contingency plans to comply with the rule.

BOTTOM LINE: If the consensus of 97 percent of scientists isn’t enough, news of yet another record breaking year should serve as another reminder of the real threat climate change poses. From more extreme weather events to sea level rise, the effects of climate change are already being felt. We can’t afford to waste time bringing partisan lawsuits against meaningful climate action or debating the science behind human-cause climate change.

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