2015 already looks set to be the hottest year on record. It means the three warmest years since records began in 1880 – 2015, 2014 and 2010 – will all have happened in the past five years. With the international conference in Paris in December to discuss legally binding agreements on how to address climate change, the issue is hotting up.
A normal record breaking rise is between 0.01% and 0.02%, yet this year many scientists are expecting the increase in average global temperature to be in the order of 0.1% – a tenfold increase in average temperature change on the year. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the UK Met Office are all predicting that 2015 will be the hottest year on record. Professor Hansen, of Columbia University in New York and former director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told The Independent: “A huge volcano could have an effect, but it had better be Krakatoa-size or bigger and occur within the next month or so if it is to have much effect on 2015’s global temperature.” And of course that would bring other problems of itself.
Elsewhere, the El Niño event building in the Pacific is contributing to the increase as sea temperatures in that ocean. Again, Professor Hansen is clear: “We know very well where the [extra] heat is coming from – increasing greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide. These trap heat radiation, reducing heat radiation escaping to space, so the planet is out of balance, more energy coming in than going out.”
The Pacific is not the only sea to be warming. According to NOAA, from January to July 2015 the global average sea-surface temperature was the highest ever recorded – and it has been measured every year for last 136. Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, has asked recently in The Times whether if astronomers had discovered an asteroid with a 10% chance of hitting the earth before 2100, we would ignore the risk. Like him I think not. He argues that it would be shameful if “we persisted in short-term policies that denied future generations a fair inheritance.” The British government is more concerned not to leave debt to the next generation, than with the the far longer-term legacy of global climate change.
Instead, as shipping routes open up through the melting Arctic, governments are beginning to invest in oil exploration and militarisation of the region. Governments and corporations are taking advantage of global warming in the Arctic and yet being lethargic about addressing the global risks associated with climate change.
On World Responsible Tourism Day at WTM on Wednesday November 4th, the Stephen Sackur interview will include Taleb Rifai, Secretary General UNWTO; Brigitta
Witt, Global Head, Corporate Responsibility, Hyatt; and leading climatologist Professor Kevin Anderson. Before that, professor Anderson will open the session with a presentation on the scale of the challenge confronting the travel and tourism sector.
The industry needs to do more and to act more quickly to reduce its carbon emissions. We are making it the central focus of this year’s World Responsible Tourism programme. As well as the flagship events, there is a panel on ‘Good practice in carbon resource efficiency, Good for our environment and the bottom line’ at 14:30 on Tuesday; and the debate on Wednesday afternoon at 15:30 asks: ‘Is the travel and tourism industry doing enough to address climate change?’
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