Hottest decade in history driven by climate change, say scientists
Man-made climate change was the main contributor to what has been the warmest ever decade, the UK weather service said in a study backed up by Nasa data showing the five years to 2019 were the hottest since records began.
With deadly bushfires still raging across large parts of Australia, the UK’s Met Office said on Wednesday that the ten years to 2019 were the warmest since it first began taking measurements in 1850.
Global temperatures in 2019 were on average 1.05C above pre-industrial levels, the Met Office said, and this year could be even hotter.
“The main contributor to warming over the last 170 years is human influence on climate from increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” the Met Office said.
Colin Morice from the Met Office Hadley Centre said: “Each decade from the 1980s has been successively warmer than all the decades that came before. 2019 concludes the warmest . . . decade in records that stretch back to the mid-19th century.”
He added that while global temperatures would continue to rise, this would not necessarily mean year-on-year increases because of natural variability in the climate system.
Data released separately on Wednesday by Nasa, the US space agency, found that the five years to 2019 were the hottest since their records began in 1880. Last year was the second warmest, behind only 2016, Nasa said.
The space agency also noted that the amount of heat absorbed by the world’s oceans hit a new high in 2019, which contributed to rising sea levels and melting ice sheets.
Last year marked another year of extreme weather events, from heatwaves across Europe to floods in South America and cyclones in Asia. Australian bushfires that began in September have wreaked devastation across much of the country, killing at least 27 people and devastating the natural world.
Climate scientists have warned that these disasters will become more frequent and intense if the world’s climate continues to warm, and that changes will become irreversible past a certain point.
Australia’s meteorology bureau said this month that 2019 had been the hottest and driest year on record, which had helped to drive the bushfires.
Commenting on the US and UK findings, Renee Salas, professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School, said hotter weather had severe implications for human health.
“Heat is an insidious universal harm that no one is safe from,” she said. “Heatwaves kill more people than any other extreme weather event.”
Despite a series of pledges from businesses and world leaders to tackle climate change, global carbon emissions looked on track to rise in 2019, although at a slower rate than in 2018.
The Paris climate agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2C, but the latest data demonstrate the difficulty of meeting this goal and the lax progress that has so far been made.