UN: 2012 was one of the hottest years ever

Climate Change Conference-goers in Doha learned Wednesday that 2012 will go down as one of the hottest years on record. A provisional statement by the UN warns of rising temperatures and melting ice.

LM Otero/AP/File
Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout, right, prepares for his at-bat as a thermometer nears 120 degrees in this July 2012 file photo. A provisional statement by a UN agency warns Doha Climate Change Conference attendees that 2012 will be one of the hottest years on record.

2012 has earned a spot on a very uncool top ten list.

The year the Mayans predicted would be the world's last will go down in history as at least one of the hottest, according to a provisional statement released Wednesday by the UN's World Meteorological Organization.

"Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in the statement.

The year started out with lower-than-normal temperatures, thanks to La Niña's cooling affect, the WMO reported. When the meteorological phenomenon faded in April, rising sea surface temperatures swept across the tropical Pacific Ocean, allowing for the neutral-to-warm conditions that have persisted since. 

The warming waters have led to unprecedented melting of polar ice sheets. On Sept. 16, the Arctic ice level measured 3.41 million square kilometers – its lowest since the start of satellite records, according to the WMO. 

"The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere," Mr. Jarraud noted.

The WMO's statement was prepared as a resource for policymakers, scientists and activists meeting this week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

It's at least the second ominous climate change report attendees have stomached in the conference's opening week. On Tuesday the UN's Environment Programme warned melting permafrost could spew gigatonnes of additional carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere.

Whether or not the reports of rising temperatures will light a fire under negotiators' remains to be seen. Past global climate change conferences have been criticized for accomplishing little in terms of meaningful policy commitments, and many are skeptical that this year's meeting will be any different.

"Any progress this year will likely be decidedly small," wrote Kate Sheppard in Mother Jones on Thursday, "but that's okay, too, since setting the hurdles low might mean negotiators can actually clear them."

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