NASA confirms 2014 hottest on record

"It’s amazing how we continue to see more and more 'hottest years'," says Sierra Club of Canada's John Bennett

NASA NOAA 2014 hottest on record - NASA image
Global regions in red on this map were hotter in 2014 than the 30-year average. Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

As part of a long-term global warming trend that's been stirring quiet alarm among climate scientists for decades, NASA and NOAA confirm that 2014 was the hottest year on modern record since 1880.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000.

“It’s amazing how we continue to see more and more 'hottest years'," said Sierra Club of Canada's John Bennett in Ottawa on Friday.

The global warming trend comes despite this country, especially eastern Canada, having a particularly cold winter, he said. "That just means other parts of the world have gotten hotter."

Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq's spokesperson said Friday that Canada's national emissions have dipped five per cent below 2005 levels, while the economy grew 11 per cent.

Bennett was doubtful this news from NASA and NOAA will provoke much change in Canada's current energy and environmental policies at the federal level.

"It’s very clear that science is not informing the federal government on climate change policy,” said Bennett.

"We see environmental reviews of pipelines that don’t consider what happens to the oil after it goes through the pipelines, and gets burned in cars, and put in atmosphere."

Under new Harper government rule changes, participants to National Energy Board public hearings on pipelines are not allowed to talk about climate change. Only those "directly affected" may apply, states the rules.

Mark Jaccard SFU climate economist - Directly Affected screening - Mychaylo Prys

Climate change economist Mark Jaccard at Directly Affected documentary screening on SFU campus on Wednesday night.  Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

Oil sands erasing CO2 reduction improvements: Jaccard

Simon Fraser University climate economist Mark Jaccard said Canada's emissions would have actually dropped far faster in recent years, if it weren't for the growth of Alberta's oil sands. 

“If you took out the oil sands, and I have all the data, our national emissions go down," he told a film screening crowd, who then watched a "Directly Affected" documentary at SFU on Wednesday night.

Jaccard said Ontario's cancellation of coal-fired power plants resulted in most of the downward pressure in Canada's GHGs.

Arctic scientists have long stated that the multi-year sea ice in Canada's North is rapidly disappearing, affecting the Inuit's ability to hunt, as well altering an entire ecosystem that is home to polar bears and belugas.

Another major concern is the melting of Arctic permafrost, which could release trapped gigatonnes of naturally occurring methane — a potent greenhouse gas. The Arctic Methane Emergency Group states that the meltdown may be unstoppable by September 2015.

Arctic "tipping point" near: scientists

The worry is that this will lead to a "tipping point" of self-sustaining global warming that cannot be stopped, even by human effort, states the scientific group which reported to the UN climate summit in December.

The global analysis of surface temperature was completed by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.  

In a second independent analysis of the raw global data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.

“The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity,” said NASA's John Grunsfeld in Washington D.C., in a release. 

Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 0.8 degrees Celsius, a trend that is largely driven by the increase in carbon dioxide and other human emissions into the planet’s atmosphere, said NASA. The majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades, that statement added.

“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said NASA Director Gavin Schmidt. 

NASA added that while 2014 temperatures continue the planet’s long-term warming trend, scientists still expect to see year-to-year fluctuations in average global temperature caused by phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña.

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