Windhoek — According to temperature data released last week, last year was the third hottest year on record. The data shows that the global surface temperature of such levels was last seen in pre-industrial times, and scientists are certain that humanity's fossil fuel-burning is to blame. The data, published last week, means the last three years have been the hottest trio ever seen.
Namibia was one of many African countries that experienced extreme heat waves that classified 2017 as the hottest year since global records began. The natural climate cycle El Niño worsened the temperatures.
Last year also saw extreme weather events strike across the world, from hurricanes in the US and Caribbean to heatwaves in Australia and devastating floods in Asia. Many of these events have been shown to have been made much more likely by the heat resulting from global warming.
Scientists from across the globe warned that the limit of 1.5C of warming, set as a goal by the international Paris climate change treaty, was being approached very rapidly and that it was more urgent than ever to slash emissions to avoid the worst impacts.
The UK's Met Office, Nasa and Noaa in the United States compiled the global temperature records. The UK Met Office said the average temperature in 2017 was 0.99C above that seen from 1850-1900, despite the Pacific Ocean moving into its cooler La Niña phase.
"While climate change deniers continue to bury their heads in the sand, global warming continues unabated," said Prof Michael Mann, at Pennsylvania State University in the US. "And the impacts of that warming - unprecedented wildfires, superstorms and floods - are now plain for all to see. There has never been greater urgency," said Mann.
Scientists said that the slight drop in global temperature in 2017 was unsurprising and that huge levels of carbon emissions are still being pumped out. "Global temperatures will continue to bob up and down from year to year, but the climate tide beneath them is rising fast," said Prof David Reay, at the University of Edinburgh in the UK.
"Despite our best efforts so far, global warming continues apace," said Prof Martin Siegert, at Imperial College London. "This is yet another wake-up call to develop a zero carbon economy before it's too late," said Siegert.
Dr Dann Mitchell, at the University of Bristol, said: "We are getting ever closer to the Paris agreement target of 1.5C which we are so desperately trying to avoid."
Prof Stefan Rahmstorf said there had been a very significant increase in global temperature since the major El Niño seen in 1998: "In just 18 years, our greenhouse gas emissions have pushed up global temperature by a full 0.4C. At this rate the Paris goal of 1.5C will already be crossed in under two decades," said Rahmstorf.