POINT OF NO RETURN

The chart that shows how close we are to a climate catastrophe

We’re inching closer to climate catastrophe. Every month this year has been, on average, hotter than any other in recorded history.

India and Ethiopia are suffering some of the worst droughts in decades. Unexpected flooding has hit Pakistan and the US.

Some of these extreme weather events are partly explained by the strongest El Niño in a generation. The El Niño phenomenon occurs every two-to-seven years, when the warm waters of the Pacific push eastwards. But this year’s El Niño has been amplified by human-caused global warming.

The record-breaking heat of 2016 only adds to the sense of urgency at the United Nations, where countries gathered this week to sign a global climate accord agreed in Paris in December. Though the agreement was seen as a victory by policymakers, many climate scientists remain of the opinion that we are not doing enough. World leaders have pledged to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial averages, the point at which many believe global warming’s effects could become irreversible.

“Governments are still talking a good game on climate but they are doing bugger all,” says Bill McGuire, professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. “The Paris [summit] is just a joke. Even if these countries kept all their promises and did what they are supposed to do, we have no chance of keeping global warming under 2°C.” Sadly, the latest data support his view.

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