We have reached a whole new level of heat
THE world has experienced its hottest five-year period ever, a United States government agency confirmed today.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released climate data that confirmed temperatures between 2013 and 2017 made up the hottest five-year period since monitoring began more than 100 years ago.
Average global temperatures over the five years were the highest on record, and 2017 was the third hottest year ever recorded, and the hottest year in which temperatures were not boosted by an El Nino event.
Overall the world's 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998 and 17 of the 18 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.
Climate Councillor and international climate scientist Professor Will Steffen said the most recent record was part of a sharp, long-term upswing in global temperatures.
"Just like dominoes, temperature and extreme weather records have toppled one after the other around the globe in 2017," Professor Steffen said.
"Here in Australia, we haven't escaped from the effects of intensifying climate change. We've seen records reach disappointing new heights in just 12 months, with more than 260 heat and low rainfall records smashed throughout one season (winter) alone.
"Australia has been touched by soaring temperatures, with some regions in New South Wales and South Australia experiencing daytime temperatures nearing 50 degrees last summer."
Professor Steffen said the increasing temperatures would cost lives as severe heatwaves were "silent killers", causing more deaths since the 1890s than bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined.
They are also having devastating impacts on the environment with Australia's Great Barrier Reef experiencing back-to-back bleaching of corals due to high water temperatures.
Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said the global data release was timely after the Federal Government admitted that Australia's greenhouse gas pollution levels were consistently rising, contributing to intensifying climate change.
Australia's greenhouse gases in 2016 were the highest since 2011 despite the closure of the country's dirtiest coal-fired power plant, according to projections produced for The Guardian.
"The window of opportunity to tackle climate change is rapidly closing," Ms McKenzie said.
"The release of this data is yet another warning to the Federal Government to urgently slash Australia's rising greenhouse gas pollution levels in a bid to protect Australians from escalating extreme weather events, placing lives at risk," she said.
"Australia has an opportunity now to continue the transition to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy and storage technology, instead of locking our country into a very dangerous future."
The Climate Change Performance Index recently ranked Australia fourth-last in the world when it came to cutting climate pollution.
But the Turnbull Government has said it would be sticking to its existing climate policies after a review concluded they were good enough to meet Australia's international commitment to cut emissions.
In December, French President Emmanuel Macron called for stronger action against climate change, following the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that aims to keep global warming well under two degrees.
"We are very far from the goal of the Paris agreement of limiting the rise in temperatures to below a two-degree threshold," he told Le Monde newspaper.
"Without much stronger mobilisation, a jolt to our means of production and development, we will not succeed."
• The 2013-2017 period has been the hottest five-year period ever recorded.
• 2017 was the third hottest year ever recorded, and the hottest year in which temperatures have not been boosted by an El Nino event.
• The world's 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998 and 17 of the 18 hottest years on record have occurred this century.
• 2017 was Australia's third hottest year on record.
• Seven of the 10 hottest years on record in Australia have happened since 2005. Five of the seven have occurred the past five years.
• 2017 broke records for hot, dry conditions with more than 260 heat and low rainfall records broken throughout winter.