2014 was the hottest year in recorded history, and the 38th consecutive year of above average global temperatures, according to research by NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The research, which found the global average temperature was 0.69°C above the 20th century average, has been published in a report by Professor Will Steffen for the Climate Council.
Off the Charts: 2014 Was Officially the World’s Hottest Year on Record states that global carbon emissions from human activities are the cause of rising temperatures, which saw new records set in Australia – including hottest ever spring, earliest day over 45 degrees and latest start to winter.
This heat is having a negative impact on people, food production and the broader environment, the report found.
“The record global warmth of 2014 is part of a long-term trend. The Earth is getting hotter,” Professor Steffen said.
“Across the world the record breaking weather and extreme heat events have had significant impacts on people, animals and plants, and well as putting pressure on infrastructure and agriculture.
“The long-term warming trend has been driven by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.”
Professor Steffen said that in addition to causing longer, hotter and more frequent heatwaves in Australia, the extreme heat associated with climate change was also worsening bushfire danger.
“2015 is the pivotal year to join global efforts in the lead up to the international climate negotiations in Paris to stabilise the world’s climate and reduce the risk of more extreme weather events,” Professor Steffen said.
“We are now halfway through the critical decade for action on climate change. To slow and then halt the warming trend, we must cut carbon emissions rapidly and deeply.”
Dr Liz Hanna from the Australian National University and the Climate and Health Alliance said the record global heat had “troubling” health implications for people around the world.
“In Australia, over the past 100 years, heatwaves have caused more deaths than any other natural disaster. In Europe, heatwaves in the summer of 2003 killed 70,000 and another 55,000 in 2010,” Dr Hanna said.
“The very old and young and workers are particularly vulnerable to severe heat and as Australia’s population ages more people will be at risk. If this warming trend continues, pressure on emergency and health services will also increase.”
Pope Francis has also recently spoken out strongly on climate change, foreshadowing the release of a Papal Encyclical calling for Catholics and world leaders to take action to reduce carbon emissions by shifting the focus towards renewable energy and divesting from fossil fuel investments.
Read the full report.