Although climate change deniers number too many for the Earth’s well-being—Donald Trump, president of the US, the largest carbon emitter in the world, is one—and there are others who downplay the risks from this, the latest report of the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows how worrying this has become. There is, more or less, some familiarity across nations with the current and possible effects of global warming, but NOAA’s latest report indicates that recent initiatives by nations may have had very little impact on reining in global warming. This year may have been slightly better than the last, but Arctic temperatures continued to increase at double the rate of the global temperature increase. More important, the current observed rates of sea-ice decline and rising oceanic temperatures were higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years; this year’s Arctic sea-ice maximum, measured in March, was the lowest ever observed—at 14.42 million sq km, it was the lowest in the 38-year satellite record, beating 2015’s maximum of 14.517 mn sq km and 2016’s maximum of 14.52 mn sq km.
The sea-ice minimum, measured in September, was eighth lowest on record—at 4.64 mn sq km on September 13. This was 1.58 mn sq km below the 1981 to 2010 median extent for the same day. The date of the minimum ice extent for 2017 itself was two days earlier than the average such date. Some may find consolation in the fact that Greenland, the most significant contributor to the sea-level rise, saw a slowdown in ice-mass loss this year, but many climate-researchers say that this may be just an anomaly. What is more worrying is that even if countries do meet their Paris commitments—one research, the findings of which were reported in August by The Guardian, shows there is a paltry 5% chance of reaching the goal—that may not prove enough.
Even if signatories manage to keep the global temperature rise to under 2-degree C, they would still not be able to reverse the ice-melt cycle. In such a scenario, the push has to come from all quarters—individuals, corporates, and governments—to adopt drastic measures for further emission-reduction. The world certainly cannot afford to lose another decade on negotiations on climate change.