Climate scientists continue to sound the alarm: Global warming fueled record temperatures in 2016

The evidence behind global climate change continues to mount, and scientists keep speaking out. Now they hope the world will listen.

The latest international climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirms that 2016 was the third consecutive year of record global heat.

On Thursday afternoon the American Meteorological Society published the 27th annual “State of the Climate” report, which verifies last year surpassed 2015 as the hottest since record keeping began in 1880.

Based on preliminary data, NASA and NOOA had made the same assessment back in January, but this week’s report is considered definitive.

“We’re scientists, and we’re providing objective information,” Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., told Yahoo News. “We don’t go into policy, but we provide the information for people who want to go further with that.”

According to the report, the effect of long-term global warming and a powerful El Niño early on pushed 2016 into record-setting warmth. The global average sea level reached a new record high last year as well, to 3.25 inches above the average level in 1993, which marks the beginning of the satellite altimeter record.

Scientists also said that the average Arctic land surface temperature continued to warm and global ice and snow cover continued to decline. Sea ice extents in the Antarctic hit record daily and monthly lows in August and November.

The “State of the Climate” report is based on contributions from nearly 500 scientists from more than 60 countries, using tens of thousands of measurements from several independent data sets. This summary of the global climate confirms data released on Jan. 18 based on analyses from scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

Blunden said the use of additional independent data sets distinguishes this report from what came before.

“The big difference in this report is we don’t just look at NOAA data. There are about four different independent data sets we looked at to come to this conclusion,” Blunden told Yahoo News. “It’s not just NOAA who is agreeing with it. NASA, the U.K. Met Office and the Japan Meteorological Agency are agreeing.”

Since the previous data was released mere days before President Trump’s inauguration, this peer-reviewed report is the most thorough assessment of climate change officially released during the Trump era.

Deke Arndt, chief of the climate-monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, described the report as diagnostic when asked if anyone from the White House had weighed in on it or questioned its findings.

“This report is a diagnostic report. It basically diagnoses what is happening in the climate system,” Arndt said on a conference call. “It’s intended to provide intelligence to those sort of decision makers that you’re talking about.”

Concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere also reached to new highs in 2016. For instance, the global average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary driver of anthropogenic climate change, in the atmosphere reached 402.9 parts per million (ppm). This was the first time on record that CO2 concentration exceeded 400 ppm. The consensus of climate scientists is that the maximum safe level is 350.

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Wildfires Continue to Destroy Land, Force Evacuations in Western U.S.

A dangerous combination of wildfires and heat are fanning flames across a region already in a critical state. More than a dozen fires are burning in California alone.

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Protests Against Police Brutality Continue In US


Protests continue against police brutality in the United States, two days after a white police officer was acquitted of killing an African-American man in Saint Paul, Minnesota, last year.

Hundreds of people gathered in New York City on Saturday to demand justice for Philando Castile who was killed by Officer Jeronimo Yanez inside his car as he tried to reach for his driver’s license during a traffic stop near St. Paul in July 2016.

The protest rally started in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan and continued to Trump Tower. The protesters condemned police brutality against African-Americans and other minorities and chanted “Black Lives Matter.”

On Friday, a jury said after five days of deliberation that Yanez had acted reasonably and was not guilty. He was also cleared of two lesser charges regarding the case.

Prosecutors argued that the cop had overreacted and was guilty of second-degree manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Yanez defended his actions, arguing that he shot Castile because he had a gun and that he only reacted after the suspect reached for his gun in his pocket despite being warned not to do so. He also accused Castile of being influenced by drugs.

Yanez was cleared of all charges relating to the death of the 32-year-old Castile on Friday.

A similar rally was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Saturday, for a second consecutive day to protest against the court verdict. Police clashed with the peaceful protesters and arrested several of them.

US Senator Al Franken of Minnesota on Saturday said Castile did not deserve to die.

“Whatever one’s opinion of the outcome of this case, we must come together and take concrete action to reckon with and dismantle the systemic racial inequalities that lead to far too many of these deaths,” Franken wrote on Facebook.

Protesters shut down highway 94 on June 16, 2017 in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by AFP)
US police have been under harsh criticism over fatal shootings of and brutality against several African Americans in recent years.

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Israeli Invasions Into Al-Aqsa Mosque Continue, Resulting In Injuries And Abductions

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Filmmaker Rob Stewart fought to protect sharks, and now we must continue his work

Lush Cosmetics and Humane Society International support the important ocean conservation work pioneered by the 37-year-old creator of ‘Sharkwater’ who died earlier this year.

On Tuesday evening, just ahead of World Oceans Day, an interesting mix of animal rights activists, green beauty fans, and saddened friends gathered at the Lush Cosmetics store on Queen Street in Toronto. It was an event to honor the life and work of Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart, who tragically died this past January at the age of 37 while making his third documentary about sharks.

Stewart’s initial award-winning film, Sharkwater, launched a global shark protection movement in 2007. It challenged the assumption that sharks are dangerous and urged viewers to see them as vital and vulnerable. Outside Online described it in an article earlier this year:

Sharkwater explains how the ocean’s apex predator has driven the evolution of marine species for over 400 million years and plays a pivotal role in climate stabilization (by feeding on species that eat plankton, which transform carbon dioxide into oxygen). It was a visually striking portrayal: early on in the film, Stewart kneels on the sea floor, petting sharks swirling around and nuzzling him.

Sharkwater, and the ‘fin-free’ campaign that grew out of it, was a main driver behind shark fin soup bans, China’s decision not to serve shark fin soup at state dinners, and various companies’ (Air Canada, UPS, DHL, etc.) policies against transporting shark fins. Seventeen municipalities in Canada and numerous U.S. states have banned shark fin trading, but it continues to be a huge problem. In 2016 alone, Canada imported 140,000 kg / 309,000 lbs of shark fins. From the Humane Society website:

“Shark finning, which is the act of cutting fins from sharks and throwing the animals back into the water to die slowly, continues to occur at an alarming rate, affecting tens of millions of sharks per year.”

When Stewart learned of more illegal shark-trading happening in Cape Verde last fall, he embarked on another film, Sharkwater: Extinction. He was halfway through filming when he died.

Lush has worked closely with Stewart for years, helping to promote his ocean conservation message through the sale of its ‘shark fin soap.’ In 2014-15, the company raised nearly $500,000 for environmental groups working on shark protection. Today, on World Oceans Day, Lush will re-launch the product in all North American stores and donate 100% of proceeds to a foundation created by Stewart’s parents in his memory. Lush will continue to sell the soap until it has raised $250,000.

Lush shark fin soap© K Martinko

At the event hosted by Lush, Gabriel Wildgen of Humane Society International (HSI) spoke movingly of Stewart’s legacy:

“He taught us that these animals are not monsters, and that they have far more to fear from us than we do from them… Over 10 years ago, virtually no one knew what shark finning was. Sharkwater put that issue on the map. [HSI] has shown it to politicians, to students, to members of the public, to journalists, getting the word out. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a politician anywhere who isn’t fully aware of the problems of sharkfinning and that something needs to be done about it.”

Wildgen urged people to take action to protect sharks. In Canada, you can support Bill S-238, put forward by Conservative senator Michael McDonald, which would ban the importation of shark fins. In the U.S., there is similar bipartisan legislation in the Senate right now.

But, as Wildgen pointed out, we don’t need to wait for Senator McDonald’s bill. The federal government has the power to pass regulations that could end the trade of shark fin products immediately, but it needs to know that Canadians still care about this issue.

Stewart's parents© K Martinko — Brian and Sandy Stewart, Rob’s parents, have pledged to finish his film and continue working to protect sharks.

The rousing message from Lush, the Humane Society, and Rob Stewart’s parents and film team is, get involved. Watch the film, sign this petition asking Prime Minister Trudeau to act now, and spread the word. Support shark protection organizations either directly or through the purchase of Lush’s shark fin soap.

Meanwhile, Stewart’s friends and family are determined to move forward. As his dive partner Brock Cahill told me emotionally, “Rob is directing from afar. Amazing things have happened since he died. The things we’ve seen in front of the camera…” He shook his head incredulously.

Brock Cahill, Sharkwater© K Martinko — Stewart’s dive partner, Brock Cahill of Los Angeles, speaks to the audience at Lush.

Rob’s mother Sandy hopes that Sharkwater: Extinction will be finished in time for the Cannes film festival next spring, but if not, it will be released at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018.

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