The UN study shows climate change is advancing on land, sea, and the atmosphere. This report is from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019, which is led by the UN Weather agency and contains data from an extensive network of partners, the UN article reads.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres says that we are “way off track” to meet either the 1.5°C or 2°C target within the Paris Agreement, on his foreword to the report. Referring to the global commitment to keep global average temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Physical signs of climate change.
The report highlights the following physical signs of climate change that can impact our health, cause migration and displacement, and threatens food security:
- Several heat records were broken in recent years. 2016 is the warmest, and 2019 was the second warmest year on record, and 2010 to 2019 is the warmest decade on record.
- Since 1980, the succeeding decades have been warmer than the previous one.
- The continuing GHG emissions mean that warming will continue.
- A recent decadal forecast projects a new annual global temperature record in the next 5 years.
Where is the world at the moment in the fight against climate change?
We have started to move in the right direction according to WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
He cites that emission dropped in developed countries despite growing economy last year, indicating that economic growth is possible amidst a decline in emissions. The bad news is that the rest of the world has increased emissions.
Mr Taalas enumerated the weather anomalies within the last ten years and at the start of 2020.
- He noted that January 2020 is the warmest on record and the previous winter has been mild in the Northern hemisphere;
- Ongoing warming in the Arctic, ice melts, and fracturing of a glacier;
- Australian bushfires and record temperatures in 2018 to 2019 reaching 41.0 C on December 18, 2019;
- Heat records in several European countries like France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Finland which recorded a high of 33.2 C in the capital Helsinki;
- High levels of fire activity in high latitude regions including Siberia and Alaska and some parts of the Arctic where fires is an “extremely rare” occurrence; South America since 2010, and Indonesia since 2015;
- Greenland’s increasing ice losses, 329 Gigatons in 2019 which is well above average;
- And, unprecedented floods and droughts in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar in 2019 with loss of lives of up to 2,200 and parts of South America; and an above-average number of tropical cyclones which hit Mozambique, Bahamas, and Japan.
The human cost of climate change
The report says that the heatwaves in 2019 led to over 100 deaths in Japan and 1,462 deaths in France. The number of Dengue virus also increased in 2019 due to higher temperatures which makes it easy for mosquitos to transmit the disease.
The report also mentioned increased in hunger in Africa due to climate extremes like droughts and also from violence and conflict. The region also suffered the worst locust outbreak in 25 years. Devastating storms and floods were also felt in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia.
It’s Time to Aim High
Mr Taalas said that countries are not fulfilling commitments made in the UN Paris climate conference in 2015. And higher ambitions are needed for serious climate mitigation efforts.
UN Chief Mr Gutteres echoed these words by saying that “we need to aim high at the next climate conference in Glasgow” referring to the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November.
Given the significant reduction in emissions during the peak of the COVID-19, Mr Gutteres said that we will not fight climate change with the virus, and added that both climate change and coronavirus must be defeated.
Coronavirus like all pandemics is expected to be temporary, climate change will “remain with us for decades and will require constant action”.
Dealing with climate change continues as Covid-19 disappears
So whilst governments and world leaders are focusing their resources right now in defeating coronavirus, the pandemic will soon pass and we will come to face again with the familiar global challenge – climate change.
Hopefully, the lessons we learnt from containing the virus and the changes in lifestyle that followed will continue after the virus is contained as these have worked well in reducing emissions.
We hope that countries reviving their economy after the pandemic would transition to green and renewable technology to prevent more catastrophic events in the future.
As with climate change, although investing in climate actions is costly, the benefits and rewards from climate adaptation far outweigh its cost in the future.
We are already seeing the effects of climate change throughout the world and scientists are warning that these life-threatening impacts will continue unless more ambitious and serious climate actions are taken immediately.
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