news News

International report confirms 2016 was warmest year on record for the globe
by NOAA, Reuters, WFP, ReliefWeb, agencies
8:05am 11th Aug, 2017
August 10, 2017
International report confirms 2016 was warmest year on record for the globe. (NOAA)
The 27th annual State of the Climate report has confirmed that 2016 topped 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of record keeping. The report found that most indicators of climate change continued to follow trends of a warming world, and several, including land and ocean temperatures, sea level and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere broke records set just one year prior. Last years record heat resulted from the combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Nino early in the year.
This annual check-up for the planet, led by researchers from NOAAs National Centers for Environmental Information, is based on contributions from more than 450 scientists from nearly 60 countries. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events and other data collected from land, water and space. Its published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
Notable findings from the report include:
Greenhouse gases were the highest on record. Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, rose to new record-high values in 2016. The 2016 average global CO2 concentration was 402.9 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 3.5 ppm compared with 2015 and the largest annual increase observed in the 58-year record.
Global surface temperature was the highest on record. Aided in part by the strong El Nino early in the year, the 2016 combined global land and ocean surface temperature was record-high for a third consecutive year, according to four global analyses. The increase in temperature ranged from 0.811.01. degrees F (0.450.56C) above the 1981-2010 average.
Average sea surface temperature was the highest on record. According to four independent datasets analyzed, the record-breaking globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2016 was 0.650.74 degrees F (0.360.41 degrees C) higher than the 19812010 average and surpassed the previous mark set in 2015 by 0.020.05 degrees F (0.010.03 degrees C).
Global upper-ocean heat content neared record high. Heat in the uppermost layer of the ocean, the top 2,300 feet (700 meters), saw a slight drop compared to the record high set in 2015. The findings are consistent with a continuing trend of warming oceans.
Global sea level was the highest on record. The global average sea level rose to a new record high in 2016, and was about 3.25 inches (82 mm) higher than that observed in 1993, when satellite record-keeping for sea level began.
Arctic sea ice coverage was at or near record low. The maximum Arctic sea ice extent (coverage) reached in March 2016 tied last year as the smallest in the 37-year satellite data record, while the minimum sea ice extent in September tied 2007 as the second lowest on record.
Tropical cyclones were above-average overall. There were 93 named tropical cyclones across all ocean basins in 2016, above the 1981-2010 average of 82 storms. Three basins the North Atlantic and Eastern and Western Pacific basins experienced above-normal activity in 2016.
9 August, 2017
Climate Change is Key Driver of Disasters, by Robert Glasser - UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Until recently it has been well understood that the main drivers of weather-related disasters were increased exposure and vulnerability due to poverty, the breakneck pace of urbanization in low and middle income countries, population growth, the destruction of protective eco-systems and low institutional capacity to manage disaster risk.
It is generally accepted that climate change is in the mix, but it is often difficult to pinpoint the role it plays in specific disaster events. Over the last 20 years, some 90 percent of major recorded disaster events have been weather-related.
The Emergency Events Database maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, based at the University of Louvain, Belgium, recorded 6,457 weather-related disasters between 1995 and 2015. There has been a doubling of such events yearly over the last decade.
About 89 percent of the 606,000 lives lost in these events occurred not in Europe but in lower income countries where under-recording of disaster-related mortality remains an issue.
Now comes research published in The Lancet, which focusses on the possible impact of climate change in Europe and finds that weather-related disasters could affect about two-thirds of the European population annually by the year 2100 leaving as many as 351 million people exposed per year compared with 25 million people exposed per year during the reference period of 1981 to 2010.
It is a comprehensive investigation of climate and demographic changes focused on natural hazards which cause the most mortality and affect the highest numbers of people including heatwaves and cold waves, wildfires, droughts, river and coastal floods, and windstorms in a business-as-usual scenario of greenhouse gas emissions.
A key finding is that there could be a 50-fold increase in mortality annually, by the year 2100. In southern Europe, currently suffering the ravages of the so-called Lucifer heatwave and associated wildfires, premature mortality linked to weather extremes could become the greatest environmental risk factor.
According to The Lancet, The projected changes are dominated by global warming (accounting for more than 90 percent of the risk to human beings), mainly through a rise in the frequency of heatwaves (about 2,700 heat-related fatalities per year during the reference period vs 151,500 during the period 2071-100).
Those numbers are quite staggering. The implications of the findings are profound for the rest of the world, particularly low and middle income countries which do not have access to the kind of resources which Europe has for adaptation to climate change and reducing the risk posed by extreme weather events.
Many low-income countries are still struggling to put in place the most rudimentary of climate risk early warning systems.
The Lancet findings underline the size of the challenge facing many countries in regions of the world where weather-related extreme events pose an even greater threat than in Europe.
This research throws into stark relief how difficult it will be to reduce disaster losses and alleviate the impact on human health if there is not a major ramping up of mitigation, climate adaptation and risk reduction efforts in the immediate future.
These latest research findings are a welcome addition to our understanding of disaster risk in Europe but should also encourage similar investigations of the consequences of climate change in other parts of the world likely to suffer the worsening impacts of weather-related disasters in the future.
02 Aug 2017
Much of South Asia could be too hot to live in by 2100 - scientists. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Climate change could make much of South Asia - home to a fifth of the world''s population - too hot for human survival by the end of this century, scientists warned on Wednesday.
If climate change continues at its current pace, deadly heatwaves beginning in the next few decades will strike parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, according to a study based on computer simulations by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Key agricultural areas in the Indus and Ganges river basins will be particularly hard-hit, reducing crop yields and increasing hunger in some of the world''s most densely populated regions, researchers said.
"Climate change is not an abstract concept, it is impacting huge numbers of vulnerable people," MIT professor Elfatih Eltahir told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Business as usual runs the risk of having extremely lethal heat waves."
The areas likely to be worst affected in northern India, southern Pakistan and Bangladesh are home to 1.5 billion people, said Eltahir, the study''s co-author.
Currently, about 2 percent of India''s population is sometimes exposed to extreme combinations of heat and humidity; by 2100 that will increase to about 70 percent if nothing is done to mitigate climate change, the study said.
Heatwaves across South Asia in the summer of 2015 killed an estimated 3,500 people and similar events will become more frequent and intense, researchers said. Projections show the Gulf region will be the world''s hottest region by 2100 as a result of climate change..
21 June 2017
High temperatures and heatwaves take hold - World Meteorological Organization
Parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States of America have seen extremely high May and June temperatures, with a number of records broken. The heatwaves are unusually early and are occurring as the Earth experiences another exceptionally warm year.
Average global surface temperatures over land and sea were the second highest on record for the first five months of 2017, according to analyses by NOAA, NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting Copernicus Climate Change Service.
Only 2016 saw higher global temperatures due to a combination of a very powerful El Nio event, which has a warming impact, and long-term climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. So far in 2017 there has been no El Nio event.
Climate change scenarios predict that heatwaves will become more intense, more frequent and longer. It is also expected that the number of hot days will continue to rise.
Near record to record heat has been reported in the desert southwest USA and into California, with highs near 120F (49C) in places. More than 29 million Californians were under an excessive heat warning or advisory at the weekend.
The US National Weather Service has warned that dangerous heat will continue in Nevada, Arizona, parts of California and Las Vegas. Phoenix recorded 118C (47.8C) on 19 June. In the 11,059 days since the start of record keeping, 118C heat has only been recorded 15 times.
North Africa, Middle East and Asia
The temperature in United Arab Emirates topped 50C on 17 May, with 50.5C in Mezaira. In the center of Iran''s Kuzestan province in the south-east of the country, neighboring Iraq, temperatures reached 50C on 15 June. The heatwave in Morocco peaked on 17 May, when there was a new reported record of 42.9C Larach Station in northern Morocco. The high June temperatures follow above average temperatures in parts of the world at the end of May.
The town of Turbat in southwestern Pakistan reported a temperature of 54C. WMO will set up an international committee of experts to verify the temperature and assess whether it equals a reported 54C temperature recorded in Kuwait last July.
20 Jun 2017
Killer heatwaves set for dramatic rise, researchers warn.
Nearly one in three people around the world is already exposed to deadly heatwaves, and that will rise to nearly half of people by 2100 even if the world moves aggressively to cut climate-changing emissions, scientists warned Monday.
If emissions continue to rise at their current pace, however, three in four people in the world will face deadly heat by the turn of the century, a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change said.
"People are talking about the future when it comes to climate change, but what we found from this paper is that this is already happening and this is obviously going to get a lot worse," said Camilo Mora, lead author of the study and a geography professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
By 2100, for instance, New York is likely to experience around 50 days a year with combined temperature and humidity exceeding the threshold in which people have previously died, researchers said.
In already hot southern U.S. cities such as Orlando and Houston, deadly heatwaves could last nearly the entire summer period, the study found.
But the most serious risks will be in tropical areas, where temperatures are already closer to the danger threshold and where heat can last more of the year, rather than just during the summer, researchers said.
"Warming at the poles has been one of the iconic climatic changes. Our study shows, however, that it is warming in the tropics what will pose the greatest risk," said Iain Caldwell, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
With temperatures already high, "it takes very little warming for conditions to turn deadly in the tropics," he said in a statement.
The University of Hawaii study looked at nearly 2,000 deadly heatwave events since 1980, and focused in on more than 780 cases with particularly good data, gathered from 164 cities from London to Sydney to Sao Paulo spread across 36 countries.
Those included events such as a European heatwave in 2003 linked to 70,000 deaths, a 2010 Moscow heatwave that killed about 10,000 people and a 1995 Chicago heatwave that claimed 700.
The study identified consistent threshold levels of combined heat and humidity that triggered deaths, and used those to project future deadly heatwaves as world temperatures continue to rise as a result of climate change.
The area of the world where such a thresholds are crossed for 20 or more days a year has been increasing, and is projected to grow, even with dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers said.
"The scary thing is how common those deadly conditions are already," said Farrah Powell, a graduate student and one of the co-authors of the study, in a statement.
When heat and humidity exceed a person''s core body temperature about 37 degrees Celsius, or 98.6 degrees Farenheit the person cannot dissipate heat into the environment, researchers said. High humidity makes efforts to sweat out heat less effective, which can lead to a lethal build-up of body heat that can damage major organs, muscles and the brain.
"Climate change has put humanity on a dangerous path that will become increasingly dangerous and difficult to reverse if greenhouse gas emissions are not taken much more seriously," Mora said.
"We are running out of good choices for the future," he warned. "For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible."
* Latest news on Heat Waves from OCHA ReliefWeb:
Mar. 2017
World Food Programme Climate Change Policy - Global Context. (Extract)
Over the last decade, natural disasters have affected 1.7 billion people and killed over 700,000 people.
Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people a year have been displaced by natural disasters. Approximately 80 percent of these disasters were climate-related.
Climate disasters regularly cause more than USD 100 billion of economic losses a year, a figure that is projected to at least double by 2030.
Food-insecure people around the world already struggle to ensure an adequate nutritious diet for themselves and their families in todays climate. Four out of five of them live in countries that are prone to natural disasters and have high levels of environmental degradation.
Their lives are made harder by the floods, drought and storms that destroy assets, land, livestock, crops and food supplies, making it more difficult for people to reach markets, aggravating caring responsibilities and damaging supportive social networks.
Climate risks combine with conflict, gender inequalities, environmental degradation, poor access to health services, sanitation and education, population growth and weak markets, all of which drive hunger and malnutrition.
The poorest people are more exposed to climate risks than the average population and lose much more of their wealth when hit by climate related shocks.
Climate change is driving long-term changes in agricultural productivity. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), climate change could reduce potential agricultural output by up to 30 percent in Africa and 21 percent in Asia. Impacts on agricultural livelihoods will represent the main increase in poverty due to climate change.
Food consumption already accounts for more than 60 percent of total spending by poor households. In Africa, the impact of climate change will increase food prices by as much as 70 percent by 2080. In the Middle East and North Africa, income insecurity and limited access to safety nets and basic services make poor consumers in rapidly growing urban areas particularly vulnerable.
The impacts of climate shocks on national and regional food markets may also have effects on humanitarian food procurement, government food reserves and safety net programmes.
Numerous studies show the severe impacts of climate disasters on health and nutrition. In Bangladesh, wasting rates among children are high in cyclone- and flood-affected areas and strong statistical evidence shows that stunting rates are higher after drought events.
In the Philippines, over the last two decades, 15 times as many infants have died in the 24 months after a typhoon as during the typhoons themselves; 80 percent of these deaths have been of infant girls.
Climate change can affect nutrition through a complex set of interlinked factors, including availability of essential foods and nutrients; increased impacts of diseases on availability and health of crops, livestock and wild foods; increased scarcity of water; deterioration of both water quality and sanitation conditions through impacts from increased shocks; environmental degradation; and choices on how to allocate time and caregiving resources.
Decreased water availability and quality, for instance, increase health and sanitation problems such as diarrhoeal disease, which together with changes in vector-borne disease patterns have the potential to increase malnutrition and have negative effects on food utilization. Climate change might also affect feeding practices by reducing the availability of food or increasing prices.
Slow-onset changes in the climate and environment are significant long-term challenges. Agricultural seasons are shifting, with patterns of precipitation and temperature changing in ways that have significant impacts on crops and livestock. Sea-level rise, desertification, salinization and glacial melt all have slow but significant impacts on livelihoods.
Slow-onset climate changes affect the kinds and nutritional content of the crops that can be grown and the animals that can be raised, with direct impacts on diets, nutrition and disease patterns. Resulting long-term possibly transformational changes will contribute to protracted food crises around the world, exacerbating the risks of instability and conflict.
These changes will most likely become visible when extreme weather events result in major crises, amplified by the progressive stress that slow onset changes put on the most vulnerable people and their livelihoods.
More than half of the worlds population now lives in urban areas where the majority of population growth is occurring. Climate change will have impacts on urban food security, livelihoods and nutrition.
More frequent and intense heat waves affect health, labour productivity and incomes, reducing households access to food and nutrition. Rapidly growing unplanned informal settlements are often in the most hazard-prone urban areas, increasing the risks from flooding and other climate hazards for poor urban populations.
While specific climate disasters may lead to migration and displacement, climate change is a long-term driver of economic migration, within countries and across borders. Without large scale efforts to build resilience and support adaptation to climate change, greater levels of food insecurity and reduced viability of livelihoods in the areas most affected by climate change are expected to increase migration.
In the face of climate change, WFPs mandate and services have never been more relevant. WFP recognizes that it is being asked to respond to a growing number of climate disasters while addressing a significant number of other complex disasters around the world. By scaling up its support to improving the capacities of the most vulnerable and food-insecure countries and communities, WFP aims to build climate resilience in a way that enables governments and the most vulnerable food-insecure people to address the impacts of climate change on their food and nutrition security in the long term.
Through this work, WFP can play a critical role in supporting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), particularly implementation of the Paris Agreement, as part of its overall support to the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The WFP Strategic Plan (20172021) aligns WFPs activities with the 2030 Agenda, focusing on support to achievement of SDGs 2 on achieving zero hunger and 17 on partnering to support implementation of the other SDGs; acknowledging that the goals are intrinsically linked and cannot be achieved in isolation.
SDG 13 reflects the need for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The Strategic Plan also guides WFP in supporting countries implementation of the Paris Agreement, which aims to strengthen the global response to the threat that climate change poses to sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.
The Paris Agreement calls on all countries to develop National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and for United Nations agencies to support the development and implementation of country actions such as strengthening scientific knowledge, capacity development, technology transfer, identification of adaptation needs, practices and priorities, and knowledge sharing including these and other plans, policies, programmes and tools as appropriate.
The agreement also recognizes the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing the losses and damage caused by the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow-onset events.
Specifically, the agreement highlights the need to enhance early warning systems, emergency preparedness, measures to address slow-onset events, comprehensive risk assessment and management, climate risk insurance, and the resilience of communities, livelihoods and ecosystems.
The Paris Agreement recognizes the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger. This is consistent with WFPs mandate, which includes humanitarian and development dimensions to be pursued with the overall goal of supporting social and economic development, providing emergency and protracted relief to meet the food and nutrition needs of refugees and other vulnerable groups, and more generally promoting world food security.
This cannot be achieved without supporting countries and communities in addressing the implications of climate change on food security and nutrition.
Achievement of the SDGs, supporting the UNFCCC and implementation of the Paris Agreement are linked to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 20152030, which recognizes the importance of addressing food insecurity and undernutrition to reduce vulnerability and build resilience.
The Sendai Framework emphasizes the need to anticipate long-term risks, avoid exposure to and creation of new risks, and reduce existing risk levels. It highlights how climate change increases risks to food systems through higher temperatures, drought, flooding and irregular rainfall.
UN Water: Climate Change
Globally, water scarcity already affects four out of every 10 people. A lack of water and poor water quality increases the risk of diarrhoea, which kills approximately 2.2 million people every year, as well as trachoma, an eye infection that can lead to blindness, and many other illnesses. (WHO)
Increasing temperatures on the planet and more variable rainfalls are expected to reduce crop yields in many tropical developing regions, where food security is already a problem. (WHO)
By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under water stress conditions. (UNESCO, 2012)
With the existing climate change scenario, by 2030, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace up to 700 million people. (UNCCD)
* UN Committee on Food Security experts report: Food security and climate change (100 pages):

Next (more recent) news item
Next (older) news item