This is the final post in my series on the State of the Climate 2015. You can find the other posts in the series here:
It has been fun working on this series and I hope some of it was useful.
The takeaways for me, not necessarily in order, are:
- 2015 was quite possibly the hottest year on record, beating 2014, the previous record holder. Temperatures have risen about 0.165C over the past decade.
- Sea levels rose about 3.2mm, much the same as in recent years. That would yield roughly one foot of sea level rise this century.
- Storm intensity increased but not above recent historical levels. Since publishing that post, I have read on weather.com that 2015 was a record year for strong hurricanes and typhoons in the Northern Hemisphere. (Hat tip to commenter Joseph at ATTP). As noted at ATTP, it may just be our good fortune that so few of these storms touched land.
- Drought has declined over the past century worldwide, but regions such as East Africa have experienced high levels of drought in recent years. Due to a paucity of good data, it’s a bit difficult to say if the locales most affected by drought are experiencing unusual levels. It is certainly possible.
- The number of reported floods is rising, although thankfully these floods are causing far fewer deaths than in the past.
- Arctic sea ice experienced its lowest maximum in the short time we’ve been keeping records and the maximum came at the earliest date in the records.
- Antarctic and Greenland ice show little if any unusual activity.
- The hottest year on record did not seem to impact agriculture, with yields just below 2014’s record harvest.
- 2015 saw the highest displacement of people worldwide since WWII. However, it seems clear that the reported 60 million refugees are fleeing conflict. The 21 million who temporarily left their homes because of storms, floods or droughts by and large returned home after conditions returned to normal.
- Armed conflicts are fewer in number but are growing deadlier. There were 42 armed conflicts underway in 2015, about half as many as two decades ago. But the number of battlefield deaths is roughly three times as many and that doesn’t count fatalities away from the battlefield.
- As for infectious disease, malaria is serving as the poster child of the phenomenon and as such is getting resources thrown at it. Malaria is retreating and affecting fewer people–and thank the heavens for that. However, other diseases such as dengue fever are spreading and infecting more people in the developing world.
I have to tread carefully here. Activists often characterize the arguments of those of us on the other side of the fence as consisting of a progression:
- It isn’t happening
- It’s happening but it isn’t us
- It’s us, but there’s nothing we can do without destroying our way of life
Or some such nonsense. Acknowledging their meme may not rob it of its potency, but I am aware of it as I make the following points:
If there were no concerns about climate change, 2015 would not have been thought of as a ‘bad’ year for the weather. El Nino often brings intense storms and weird weather in different parts of the world. We had our share of droughts and floods, hurricanes and typhoons, but it didn’t seem to set us back and thankfully didn’t kill too many of us. We had no Katrinas, no Haiyan, no onset of clusters of tornadoes. We didn’t have a repeat of the horrible flooding in Pakistan or heatwaves in Moscow or Paris. Not a bad year, viewed in isolation.
Of course there are concerns about climate change and this review notes some that bear watching–the number of floods, number of intense storms and the spread of some infectious diseases. What we saw in 2015 in those areas may not be due to anthropogenic contributions to climate change. They may not have even been influenced much by our actions. But they should certainly alert us to what one possible future may look like.
Next up on this blog: More on renewables and our Blogger and Commenter of the Year awards. Nominations welcome.