The Arctic is experiencing its version of a heatwave: climate extremes to continue in 2017

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that 2016 was the warmest year on record, and early indications suggest 2017 will be much the same.

In the WMO’s annual statement on the State of the Global Climate, the organisation claimed that provisional data suggests the year-on-year rise in global temperatures will continue into 2017, with the Arctic already experiencing the “Polar equivalent of a heatwave” at least three times this winter, and Antarctic sea ice being recorded at record low levels.

“We are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said World Climate Research programme director, David Carlson.

Image courtesy of WMO

According to the WMO, warming in 2016 was boosted by strong El Niño conditions, a phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and has a global impact on weather patterns.

The El Niño event contributed to global sea levels rising, while at the same time the very warm ocean temperatures contributed to significant coral bleaching and death, which had an impact on marine food chains, ecosystems and fisheries.

Global sea ice extent also dropped more than 4 million square kilometres below average last November, an unprecedented anomaly for that month.

“This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year.”

The WMO report also revealed that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per million in 2015 – the latest year for which WMO global figures are available.

Having passed that symbolic benchmark, the level of carbon dioxide will not drop for many generations because of the long-lasting nature of CO2.

Taalas pointed out that the influence of human activities on the climate system continues to become more and more evident with many noteworthy extreme events occurring in 2016.

Severe droughts have brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern Africa and Central America, while Hurricane Matthew caused widespread suffering in Haiti as the first category 4 storm to make landfall since 1963. Heavy rains and floods also affected eastern and southern Asia.

“The entry into force of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 4 November 2016 represents a historic landmark. It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies,” said Taalas.

“Continued investment in climate research and observations is vital if our scientific knowledge is to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change,” added Taalas.

The WMO’s annual statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016 will be presented to UN member states and climate experts at a high-level action event on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda in New York on 23 March, and is available to view here.

Elon Musk: Tesla is coming to India this year

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has confirmed Tesla’s launch in India this year. In response to a query about the expected timing on Twitter, the tech entrepreneur responded that the company is “hoping for summer this year”.

The move into the Indian market was first announced almost a year ago, and has attracted significant interest.

First announced in April of last year, Musk said that Tesla planned to enter India before production of the Model 3 mass-market sedan went into production. With production beginning in mid-2017, the company is certainly looking to cut it close on fulfilling their timeline for entering the country.

The Tesla Model 3, the company’s long-awaited mass-market offering

However, the Indian market is one that is sure to be hugely attractive to Tesla, particularly when taking into account not just the massive growth within the country itself but the position it offers as a hub for marketing further into Asia. According to Tesla’s chief information officer, Jay Vijayan, the company is planning to build a manufacturing plant in India, and the Indian government seems very keen for them to do so.

In July of last year, Indian Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari offered Tesla land near major Indian ports to encourage the use of India as Tesla’s Asian manufacturing hub. Such proximity would offer much greater ease in exporting the vehicles to South and South East Asian countries.

The minister’s land offer to Tesla followed a visit to their San Francisco factory and came with the offer of a joint venture between the firm and Indian automobile companies to promote eco-friendly road transport in India. Such offers form part of India’s wider push for electric vehicles in the country and, particularly, electric vehicles built within India.

“The biggest challenge is cost and all of us would have to work on it so that people can afford and easily adopt this new technology. To make it cheaper, we would have to work for make-in-India and (that) is the solution for making electric vehicle affordable,” said Girish Shankar, secretary, ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises.

Images courtesy of Tesla

As part of the attempt to make electric vehicles more affordable, the Indian government announced a scheme in March of last year to provide electric cars on zero down payment for which people can pay out of their savings on expensive fossil fuels. Ambitiously, the government hopes to have become a 100% electric vehicle nation by 2030.

While the goal may be a challenge, there are already positive signs. In the year ending 31st March 2016, sales of electric vehicles in India grew by 37.5% to 22,000 units.

As it stands, this is still a far cry from the objective stated in the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 and FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) that the country would have 6 million electric vehicles by 2020. However, acquiring in-country manufacturing with countries like Tesla represents a substantial early step.