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Update: 2017 is officially one of the three warmest years on record globally

Extreme weather events—from floods to hurricanes to wildfires—defined much of last year

UPDATE:

Jan. 18, 2018: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared 2017 a top-three record-warm year globally.

"This announcement should shock no one," said WWF's Lou Leonard, senior vice president of climate change and energy. "Mother Nature forced climate-related disasters from Houston to Puerto Rico to California, into the headlines throughout 2017. In the United States, 2017 was also a record-breaking year for the costs of these disasters. This is not a coincidence."

After a year of extremes in the United States—from floods to hurricanes to wildfires—2017 is officially the third-hottest year on record in the United States, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Much of the warming is attributed to human-caused changes in climate.

“While the weather can change on a dime, our climate is steadily warming,” said Shaun Martin, WWF’s senior director of climate adaptation and resilience. “Each year provides another piece of evidence in what science has already confirmed—the consequences of rising temperatures are putting people and wildlife at risk.”

Our changing climate intensifies already life-threatening events. We’re seeing more severe droughts, wild fires, crop losses, and more frequent and disastrous coastal storms. In America’s Arctic, the cascading effects of melting ice caps shrink vital ecosystems, threaten iconic wildlife like polar bears, and contribute to rising global sea levels.

The release of greenhouse gasses from the burning of fossil fuels and other sources is causing temperatures in the Arctic to warm at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

Drought reduces feed for American farmers’ cattle and water for their crops, among other impacts.

With the US government forfeiting its climate leadership role, combatting climate change is undeniably more difficult. Thankfully, local leaders from businesses, government, and universities are filling the void, setting more aggressive renewable energy targets, building local infrastructure that can weather greater storms, and training the next generation of climate leaders.

These subnational leaders are already driving economic expansion and a transition to a zero-carbon economy, but must pick up the pace and align with the best available science to ensure we keep our temperature goals in sight. The alternative threatens the safety, health, and prosperity of all who share our planet.

WWF works with local communities, governments, and others around the world to help people and nature prepare for the many impacts of a changing climate. We’re helping to integrate environmental considerations into disaster recovery, reconstruction, and risk reduction. And we’re assessing species to determine the traits that make them resilient or vulnerable to changes in climate.

It’s essential that we urgently reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the consequences of global warming—many of which the world is already experiencing.

“We need to make sure America’s communities are prepared for changes to come,” Martin said. “Today’s leaders need to take the necessary steps to make sure tomorrow’s communities are safe from the devastating impacts or our changing climate.”

You can help. Support the Clean Power Plan, which outlined the first national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants.