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The Last Four Years Were Likely the Hottest on Record

Climate
2018 is set to be the fourth warmest year on record. @WMO / Twitter

2018 will likely be the fourth hottest year on record, according to the United Nations' authoritative voice for weather and climate. The three years that were warmer? 2016, 2015 and 2017.

Furthermore, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Thursday in its 2018 State of the Climate report.


The new report, based on five independently maintained global temperature data sets, adds ever more proof that global warming is unequivocal—and we'd better act now to reverse this alarming trend.

Unfortunately, the current pace of international government action is "insufficient" to limit warming, the UN Environment Programme warned yesterday in its 2018 Emissions Gap Report. In fact, the annual assessment found that after a three-year decline, heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions actually increased to "historic levels" of 53.5 billion tonnes in 2017, with no signs of peaking.

"We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said today in a press release. "Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5°C by the end of the century."

Taalas stressed that exploitation of fossil fuels will push temperature rise "considerably higher."

"It is worth repeating once again that we are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it," he said.

Scientists have already warned that 2019 could be an unusually warm year due to a forecasted El Niño, which could cause extreme weather and temperature spikes.

The new State of the Climate report shows that temperatures for the first ten months of 2018 were nearly 1°C above the pre-industrial baseline from 1850-1900.

Last month's widely disseminated climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed that average global temperatures between 2006-2015 were 0.86°C above the pre-industrial baseline. In the last five years, 2014-2018, it was 1.04°C above the pre-industrial baseline.

"These are more than just numbers," said WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova in today's press release.

"Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life," she added. "It makes a difference to economic productivity, food security, and to the resilience of our infrastructure and cities. It makes a difference to the speed of glacier melt and water supplies, and the future of low-lying islands and coastal communities. Every extra bit matters."

The WMO report comes just days before the critical climate summit COP24 in Katowice, Poland, where delegates from roughly 200 countries will create a "rulebook" on how to implement the 2015 Paris agreement to avoid disastrous climate change.

The Paris accord aims to keep global temperature rise this century to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and has a more aspirational target to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.

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If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.

That's the conclusion of a new study from think tank Autonomy, which found that Germany, the UK and Sweden all needed to drastically reduce their workweeks to fight climate change.

"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."

The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.

The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.

The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.

"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."

Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.

"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."

Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.

"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."

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