Uncharted Territory: Records continue to be broken as 2016 extreme climate trends continue in 2017
2017: Hottest Year on Record?
Earlier this year it was widely reported that 2016 had been the hottest year ever. This week the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published its annual statement on the state of the global climate, confirming that 2016 was indeed the hottest year on record. The report states that 2016 was a full 1.1°C above the pre-industrial baseline, breaking the 2015 record by 0.06°C.
The report also looks at the effect of the strong El Niño in 2015/16. Previous years with El Niños of similar strength (1973, 1983 and 1998) had average temperatures 0.1-0.2°C above the baseline (a 10-year mean centred on those years). This gave some hope that as the global weather systems return to normal we could see the extremes of the last 2 years ease slightly.
However as 2017 continues, the extreme weather and climate events seen in the previous 12 months show no sign of slowing.
February 2017, was the second hottest ever behind 2016. The map below, produced by NOAA, shows numerous areas recording record monthly temperatures.
The numbers make for alarming reading, with global land temperatures 1.78°C above the 20th century average. The year to date temperature trends for both land and ocean surface have been second only to 2016. As the climate settles after the 2015-16 El Niño, we are beginning to see that the extremes of the last 2 years are now becoming the norm.
Records break in polar regions
The Arctic has seen greater warming than the global average, with temperatures in 2016 around 3°C. 2017 has brought no relief. Unusually strong cyclones in January drew in warm air from the south, and February has seen the lowest ever extent of sea ice since recording started in 1979.
Business must adapt as extreme weather becomes the norm
As global temperatures increase, the frequency of extreme weather also increases. Droughts, heatwaves and tropical storms become more frequent and more intense. The human cost is a looming disaster, and as the global community attempts to solve the problem, the reality is the effects are already being felt.
It’s sometimes challenging to apply volatile weather events to the business context: but it is very relevant to most companies.
Last September Carbon Clear published its annual Sustainability Reporting Performance of the FTSE 100 report. The research showed that at the top financial end of British business the preparation for what is now the reality of climate change was worrying. Whilst two thirds of the FTSE 100 had some assessment of climate risks, less than a quarter had a full assessment and plan to mitigate. 76 companies also failed to assess any risk to their supply chain, which will often be the area most at risk from extreme weather.
As business has become increasingly global, companies’ supplier networks have expanded. These will be feeling the effects of climate change in different ways, from drought causing crop failure to hurricanes halting production at mines, all businesses will feel the effects, and without a strategy to manage these increased risks, or in many cases even awareness of the risks at all, businesses are leaving themselves vulnerable.
As 2016 extreme trends continue into this year, it is imperative companies act now.