This decade is set to be the hottest in history, the UN said yesterday in an annual assessment outlining the ways in which climate change is outpacing humanity’s ability to adapt to it.
The World Meterological Organization (WMO) said global temperatures so far this year were 1.1°C above the pre-industrial average, putting this year on course to be in the top three warmest years ever recorded.
Manmade emissions from burning fossil fuels, building infrastructure, growing crops and transporting goods mean the year is set to break the record for atmospheric carbon concentrations, locking in further warming, the WMO said.
Oceans, which absorb 90 percent of the excess heat produced by greenhouse gases, are now at their highest recorded temperatures.
The world’s seas are now a quarter more acidic than 150 years ago, threatening vital marine ecosystems upon which billions of people rely for food and jobs.
In October, the global mean sea level reached its highest on record, fueled by the 329 billion tonnes of ice lost from the Greenland ice sheet in 12 months.
Each of the past four decades has been hotter than the last.
Far from climate change being a phenomenon for future generations to confront, the effects of humanity’s insatiable, growth-at-any cost consumption means millions are already counting the damage.
The report said more than 10 million people were internally displaced in the first half of this year — 7 million directly due to extreme weather events such as storms, flooding and drought.
By the end of the year, the WMO said new displacements due to weather extremes could reach 22 million.
“Once again in 2019 weather and climate related risks hit hard,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. “Heatwaves and floods which used to be ‘once in a century’ events are becoming more regular occurrences.”
This year has already seen deadly heatwaves in Europe, Australia and Japan, superstorms devastate southeast Africa, and wildfires rage out of control in Australia and California.
UN member nations are currently in crucial talks in Madrid aimed at finalizing rules for the 2015 Paris climate accord.
The UN said last week in its annual “emissions gap” assessment that the world needed to cut carbon emissions by 7.6 percent each year, every year, until 2030 to hit 1°C. Instead, emissions are rising.
“Our economic activities continue to use the atmosphere as a waste dump for greenhouse gases,” said Joeri Rogelj, Grantham Lecturer in Climate Change at Imperial College London. “The increasing temperatures, the warming oceans, ocean acidification and other indicators are the logical consequence of this inaction and this should worry us deeply.”
Friederike Otto, deputy director of the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, said the WMO report “highlights that we are not even adapted to 1.1 degree of warming.”
“And there is no doubt that this 1.1 degree is due to the burning of fossil fuels,” he said.
In related news, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, aboard a catamaran yesterday after crossing the Atlantic from New York City on her way to appear on the sidelines of the Madrid summit.
She is scheduled to spend a day holding meetings with Portuguese climate activists and resting before her departure for Madrid, where she is due to join thousands of people for a march on Friday.
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