The tell-tale physical signs of climate change such as increasing land and ocean heat, accelerating sea level rise and melting ice are highlighted in a new report compiled by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and an extensive network of partners.
It documents impacts of weather and climate events on socio-economic development, human health, migration and displacement, food security and land and marine ecosystems.
The “WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019” includes input from national meteorological and hydrological services, leading international experts, scientific institutions and United Nations agencies. The report provides authoritative information for policy makers on the need for climate action.
The report confirms information in a provisional statement issued at the UN Climate Change Conference in December that 2019 was the second warmest year in the instrumental record. 2015-2019 are the five warmest years on record, and 2010-2019 the warmest decade on record. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.
2019 ended with a global average temperature of 1.1°C above estimated pre-industrial levels, second only to the record set in 2016, when a very strong El Niño event contributed to an increased global mean temperature atop the overall warming trend.
“We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a foreword.
“This report outlines the latest science and illustrates the urgency for far-reaching climate action. It brings together data from across the fields of climate science and lists the potential future impacts of climate change – from health and economic consequences to decreased food security and increased displacement,” he said.
The report was launched at a media session given by the UN Secretary-General and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas at UN headquarters on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.
“Given that greenhouse gas levels continue to increase, the warming will continue. A recent decadal forecast indicates that a new annual global temperature record is likely in the next five years. It is a matter of time,” said Taalas.
“We just had the warmest January on record. Winter was unseasonably mild in many parts of the northern hemisphere. Smoke and pollutants from damaging fires in Australia circumnavigated the globe, causing a spike in CO2 emissions. Reported record temperatures in Antarctica were accompanied by large-scale ice melt and the fracturing of a glacier which will have repercussions for sea level rise,” added Taalas.
“Temperature is one indicator of ongoing climate change. Changes in the global distribution of rainfall have had a major impact on several countries. Sea levels are rising at an increasing pace, largely due to the thermal expansion of sea water as well as melting of the largest glaciers, like in Greenland and Antarctica. This is exposing coastal areas and islands to a greater risk of flooding and the submersion of low-lying areas,” stated Mr Taalas.
The report listed climate indicators to include greenhouse gases, marine heatwaves, ocean warming, ocean acidification, ocean deoxygenation, marine ecosystems, sea level, sea ice and glaciers.
The report devotes an extensive section to weather and climate impacts on human health, food security, migration, ecosystems and marine life.
High impact events in 2019 were floods, drought, heatwaves, wildfires and tropical cyclones.