Two separate reports, one published by NASA and one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that 2014 was the warmest year on record. While this latest breaking news about climate change may not surprise many, will it change our behavior?
With faster rates of sea level rise, accelerated loss of Arctic ice, increased flooding along coastlines and severe heat waves, the effects of climate change are already upon us, but as temperatures keep climbing, things can and will get worse.
Temperatures continue to rise
The two new federal reports, from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, both showed that 2014 topped 2010 for warmest year on record. Doyle Rice expounded on the breaking news of the researchers’ results in “Record! 2014 was Earth’s warmest year” for USA Today on January 16, 2015. Here are some of the statistics:
- The average temperature in 2014 was 1.24 degrees above the 20th century average.
- The USA had its 34th warmest year.
- Record warmth was recorded in eastern Russia and into western Alaska.
Rice added, “The planet has not seen a month with below-average temperatures for any month since February 1985.” This means that people under the age of 29 have never experienced even one month where the average temperature was cooler than the average set in the 20th century.
Freak weather part of climate change
But what about the polar vortex of winter 2014? Even the freakish cold weather that was breaking news when it battered the East Coast last winter is likely a result of climate change, according to John Wenz’s blog post, “We Just Lived Through the Hottest Year on Record. Again.” posted on January 16, 2015, for popularmechanics.com.
While the East Coast did have some unusually cold weather in 2014, the West Coast of the country experienced a blistering heat wave that led to severe droughts. Wenz summed up the climate change crisis by explaining that “[T]he 10 hottest years on record have all happened since 1997.”
The 1.24 degree increase NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found may not seem like a big deal, but that breaking news is enough to have a big effect on climate change—from sea levels to drastic weather to uncertain temperatures.
Beyond climate change
2014 now bears the dubious distinction of being the warmest year on record, with all the consequences to the planet’s well being. But climate change affects more than the weather on earth; it also has ramifications for our health, particularly in poorer countries.
Natalie McGill discussed a March 2014 report, “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in her July 2014 article “Climate Change May Worsen Global Health Problems, Report Concludes” for The Nation’s Health. This happens in three ways:
- Extreme weather events, like drought, cause food shortages.
- Natural systems cause air pollution, as well as water-borne diseases.
- Man-made systems lead to stress and injury.
All of these factors can be combated, but often at a very high financial cost. As climate change grows in magnitude, the cost will quickly become prohibitive.
“Effects of climate change will result in a higher rate of disease, injury and death due to heat waves and fires, higher chances of undernutrition in poorer countries because of its effects on crops, and a higher risk of food and water-borne diseases,” McGill concluded.
Is it too late for earth? Will the ever-increasing temperatures ever be brought into check? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.