BOSTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Scientific data show the atmosphere may be past a tipping point when it comes to global climate change, outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
With his tenure coming to an end, Kerry warned students and leaders at Massachusetts Institute of Technology of the dangers of climate change. By his account, sea levels are rising up to three times faster than they did during the previous century and storms like Hurricane Sandy that were once rare are more commonplace.
"This is not some crazy coincidence," he said. "This is actually what scientists have been warning us was going to happen for a long time."
According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, 2016 was the second warmest year for the United States in 122 years of recorded history and the 20th year in a row that the average annual temperature was warmer than the preceding year. At 31.7 inches, 2016 was also the 24th wettest year since federal record-keeping began.
In terms of weather-related disasters, NOAA said 2016 was one of the deadliest and most expensive, with 138 lives lost to severe weather and $46 billion in damage incurred.
A special report on climate change from the International Energy Agency finds a strong link between economic expansion and greenhouse gas emissions. While renewable energy is one of the fastest growing power sectors, the IEA said energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, expands 8 percent against the expected 88 percent growth in the global economy by 2030.
"Unless we take the steps necessary to change the course that our planet is on, the impacts that we have already seen will pale in comparison to what we will witness in years to come," the U.S secretary of state told MIT.
By his account, CO2 concentrations at the isolated South Pole are 50 parts per million above a level considered an "irretrievable" tipping point in respect to climate change. Writing Monday in the journal Science, outgoing President Barack Obama said there's a "massive scientific record" on climate change that can't be ignored.
President-elect Donald Trump has expressed doubts about some of the factors contributing to climate change and said he may take the country out of the Paris climate deal once in office. He's selected former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state.