The World Meteorological Organization’s “Statement on the Status of Global Climate in 2015” is making headlines internationally for the bleak picture it paints of the earth’s current condition.
According to the statement, the planet is heating up far faster than ever before: 2015 was the hottest year on record globally, and the contiguous United States had its third-wettest year since scientists started collecting records in 1895.
But here's a sobering reality: The statement may be the second most-dire report recently published on climate change.
Earlier this week, a concurrent report written by a University of Hawaii researcher concluded carbon emissions are entering the earth's atmosphere at an amount and rate unprecedented over the last 66 million years.
"We don't find any example in terms of the speed and the rate of which we are putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," UH Manoa researcher Richard Zeebe.
It's that carbon that is causing climate change.
"The CO2 in the atmosphere essentially puts a blanket around the earth. The more CO2 you put in the atmosphere, it means essentially the higher the surface temperature of the planet will be," Zeebe said.
The WMO report says sea level rise is of concern locally: in 2015, sea levels were at their highest on record. Polar ice caps are melting at accelerated rates, which not only hastens sea level rise, but also creates conditions favorable for tropical cyclones.
Zeebe says the trend may not be reversible, but mankind may be able to mitigate some effects of climate change.
"If the Paris agreement would be enforced strongly and we stick to those emission cuts that people have been advertising that would be clearly a step forward," he said.
And if not?
"The consequences are most likely dire."