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April 2016 Hottest on Record as 'Climate Emergency' Grows

The Paris target of keeping emissions under 1.5°C is 'wishful thinking,' scientist says

2016 may not only be the hottest year in recorded history, but also by the widest margin, scientists say. (Photo: Premier of Alberta/flickr/cc)

This April was the hottest on record—and the seventh month in a row to break global temperature averages—setting up 2016 to be the hottest year ever, NASA has reported.

April was 1.11°C hotter than previous averages between 1951 and 1980, which NASA uses as a barometer for measuring climate change, according to figures the agency released over the weekend. NASA also found that April was the third month in a row that the record-breaking jumps in temperature were reached by the largest increases yet.

In fact, 2016 may not only be the hottest year in recorded history, but also by the widest margin, scientists say.

"The interesting thing is the scale at which we're breaking records," Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told the Guardian on Monday. "It's clearly all heading in the wrong direction."

"Climate scientists have been warning about this since at least the 1980s," Pitman said. "And it's been bloody obvious since the 2000s. So where's the surprise?"

In February, when this latest trend of record-breaking increases began, scientists referred to it as "shocking" and a "climate emergency." The new numbers come just as global leaders gather in Bonn, Germany this week to follow up on the historic Paris agreement signed in April to curb global greenhouse gas emissions. But researchers say the new record is casting fresh doubts that the deal will be able to stave off irreparable climate change in time to prevent catastrophic consequences.

The Paris target of keeping emissions under 1.5°C is "wishful thinking," Pitman said. "I don't know if you'd get 1.5°C if you stopped emissions today. There's inertia in the system. It's putting intense pressure on 2°C."

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