news News

Accelerating climate change on land, sea and in the atmosphere
by UN News, WMO, UNEP, IPCC, agencies
12:30pm 19th Jan, 2020
Mar. 2020
Accelerating climate change on land, sea and in the atmosphere - World Meteorological Organization
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 Organization 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 flagship 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.
“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 WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas 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,” said Mr 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,” said Mr Taalas.
* Access the report:
Jan. 2020
World Meteorological Organization confirms 2019 as second hottest year on record. (WMO)
The year 2019 was the second warmest year on record after 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s consolidated analysis of leading international datasets.
Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods were the highest on record. Since the 1980s each decade has been warmer than the previous one. This trend is expected to continue because of record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Averaged across the five data sets used in the consolidated analysis, the annual global temperature in 2019 was 1.1°C warmer than the average for 1850-1900, used to represent pre-industrial conditions. 2016 remains the warmest year on record because of the combination of a very strong El Niño event, which has a warming impact, and long-term climate change.
“The average global temperature has risen by about 1.1°C since the pre-industrial era and ocean heat content is at a record level,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, we are heading towards a temperature increase of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of century.”
Temperatures are only part of the story. The past year and decade have been characterized by retreating ice, record sea levels, increasing ocean heat and acidification, and extreme weather. These have combined to have major impacts on the health and well-being of both humans and the environment, as highlighted by WMO’s Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019, which was presented at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP25, in Madrid. The full statement will be issued in March 2020.
“The year 2020 has started out where 2019 left off – with high-impact weather and climate-related events. Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems and the environment,” said Mr Taalas.
“Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” said Mr Taalas.
More than 90 percent of the excess heat is stored within the world’s ocean, and so ocean heat content is a good way to quantify the rate of global warming. A new study published 13 January in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Center for Environmental Information and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics showed that ocean heat content was at a record level in 2019.
The past five years are the top five warmest years in the ocean historically with modern instruments, and the past ten years are also the top ten years on record.
* WMO uses datasets (based on monthly climatological data from Global Observing Systems) from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the United Kingdom’s Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom.
It also uses re-analysis datasets from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts and its Copernicus Climate Change Service, and the Japan Meteorological Agency. This method combines millions of meteorological and marine observations, including from satellites, with models to produce a complete reanalysis of the atmosphere. The combination of observations with models makes it possible to estimate temperatures at any time and in any place across the globe, even in data-sparse areas such as the polar regions.
Jan. 2020
Southern Africa’s Climate-Driven Food Crisis - A record 45 million Southern Africans are food insecure reports the World Food Programme
The scale of the region’s hunger crisis is unprecedented. As we enter the peak of the lean season, the number of food insecure people in the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) is set to reach a record 45 million.
Driven by climate change, millions of people are experiencing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity. The severity of the situation is largely a consequence of the cumulative effects of climate-related natural disasters in the form of recurrent widespread drought — the region has only had one normal rainy season in the last five years — cyclones and persistent flooding.
For hard-hit families in a region heavily dependent on rain-fed smallholder farming, this means: limited food stocks; fewer meals; more children out of school; the distress sale of livestock and other assets; and other negative coping strategies.
Afflicting urban as well as rural communities, the hunger crisis is aggravated by rising food prices and mounting joblessness, posing a risk of political instability. It is also deepening acute malnutrition in particularly vulnerable communities.
The crisis could deepen this year. Forecasts indicate an increased likelihood of below-normal rainfall in many parts of the region in January-March 2020, the crucial growing period ahead of the main April-May harvest.
Dec. 2019
COP25 Climate summit: Put children at heart of tackling crisis, says UN.
Children and young people must be at the heart of dealing with the climate crisis, the UN and campaigners have said as climate talks in Madrid enter their second week with little concrete progress.
Young people, including Greta Thunberg, played a leading role in protests at COP25 over the weekend, and on Monday appeared at the conference to put pressure on negotiators to come up with a plan for reducing greenhouse gases and tackling the impacts of climate breakdown.
Penelope Lea, a 15-year old from Norway, was the first climate activist chosen to be a Unicef ambassador. She said: “We need to keep giving the decisionmakers the power to make the changes we need to see. People have a right to knowledge, and an obligation to get knowledge. Some say we have to wait for people to get ready for change. But we need to make people ready. These are some of the things the youth movement is trying to do, and have to do to ensure progress at COP25.”
She spoke as governments including the intended conference host Chile, the co-hosts Costa Rica and Spain, and several other countries signed up to an international declaration that the climate emergency was a crisis for the rights of children. The organisers, including Unicef, hope this will encourage countries to include special consideration for children in their climate action plans.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, applauded the young activists. “I understand the despair and rage that so many young people and older ones too are feeling. All of us know the facts and so far there has been far too little real action. Children and young people have a right to participate. We need to implement the principle of intergenerational equity that the Paris agreement sets out.”
Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland, said: “The children have called out the adult world, called us out very effectively, as this is a grave injustice. When I was growing up I did not have that shadow [of climate breakdown]. It’s not fair that we have made children have that fear.”
Unicef warned that climate breakdown would reverse the gains made in recent years in protecting children and enshrining their rights in law.
More than 500 million children live in areas judged to be at extremely high risk of floods, due to cyclones, hurricanes, storms and rising sea levels. In the Caribbean alone, the number of children displaced by extreme weather events has risen sixfold in five years, with more than 760,000 children displaced between 2014 and 2018.
More than 160 million children are living in areas with high levels of drought, with severe impacts on their development and exposure to disease. That number is expected to rise dramatically, so that on current trends as many as one in four children around the world will live in areas of extreme water stress, according to the UN.
Diseases, including mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever, are forecast to spread to new areas as a result of global heating. Children under five are likely to be most at risk.
Air pollution, which is made worse by coal-burning power stations, fossil fuels burned for transport and biomass burning in homes without clean energy sources, also hurts children disproportionately. Breathing toxic air can stunt children’s lungs permanently, and has a long-term impact on their health, brain function and development.
Toxic air contributes to the deaths of about 600,000 deaths of children under five every year, from pneumonia and other respiratory problems. But the measures needed to tackle the climate crisis – replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, creating green spaces and planting trees – would also help to clean up dirty air.
Gautam Narasimhan, a senior adviser on climate change, energy and environment at Unicef, said: “From hurricanes to droughts to floods to wildfires, the consequences of the climate crisis are all around us, affecting children the most and threatening their health, education, protection and very survival. Children are essential actors in responding to the climate crisis. We owe it to them to put all our efforts behind solutions we know can make a difference.”
Nov. 2019
Cut global emissions by 7.6 percent every year for next decade to meet 1.5°C Paris target. (UN News)
The UNEP’s annual Emissions Gap Report says that even if all current unconditional commitments under the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2°C, bringing even wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts. Collective ambition must increase more than fivefold over current levels to deliver the cuts needed over the next decade for the 1.5°C goal.
2020 is a critical year for climate action, with the UN climate change conference in Glasgow aiming to determine the future course of efforts to avert crisis, and countries expected to significantly step up their climate commitments.
"For ten years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm – and for ten years, the world has only increased its emissions,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
“There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that going beyond 1.5°C will increase the frequency and intensity of climate impacts.
“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7 per cent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director.
“This shows that countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action. They – and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now.”
“We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger Nationally Determined Contributions to kick-start the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated,” she added. “If we don’t do this, the 1.5°C goal will be out of reach before 2030.”
G20 nations collectively account for 78 per cent of all emissions, but only five G20 members have committed to a long-term zero emissions target.
In the short-term, developed countries will have to reduce their emissions quicker than developing countries, for reasons of fairness and equity. However, all countries will need to contribute more to collective effects. Developing countries can learn from successful efforts in developed countries; they can even leapfrog them and adopt cleaner technologies at a faster rate.
Crucially, the report says all nations must substantially increase ambition in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as the Paris commitments are known, in 2020 and follow up with policies and strategies to implement them. Solutions are available to make meeting the Paris goals possible, but they are not being deployed fast enough or at a sufficiently large scale.
Each year, the Emissions Gap Report assesses the gap between anticipated emissions in 2030 and levels consistent with the 1.5°C and 2°C targets of the Paris Agreement. The report finds that greenhouse gas emissions have risen 1.5 per cent per year over the last decade. Emissions in 2018, including from land-use changes such as deforestation, hit a new high of 55.3 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent.
To limit temperatures, annual emissions in 2030 need to be 15 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent lower than current unconditional NDCs imply for the 2°C goal; they need to be 32 gigatonnes lower for the 1.5°C goal. On an annual basis, this means cuts in emissions of 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 to meet the 1.5°C goal and 2.7 per cent per year for the 2°C goal.
To deliver on these cuts, the levels of ambition in the NDCs must increase at least fivefold for the 1.5°C goal and threefold for the 2°C.
Climate change can still be limited to 1.5°C, the report says. There is increased understanding of the additional benefits of climate action – such as clean air and a boost to the Sustainable Development Goals. There are a number of significant efforts from governments, cities, businesses and investors. Solutions, and the pressure and will to implement them, must be significantly enhanced.
John Christensen, Director of UNEP DTU Partnership says: "When looking back at the 10 years we have prepared the Emissions Gap Report, it is very disturbing that in spite of the many warnings, global emissions have continued to increase and do not seem to be likely to peak anytime soon.
The reductions required can only be achieved by transforming the energy sector. The good news is that since wind and solar in most places have become the cheapest source of electricity, the main challenges now is to design and implement an integrated, decentralised power system."
Nov. 2019
A new report says that roughly 75% of the 184 national pledges to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement are insufficient to avoid dire global warming.
Scientists are warning that climate change could soon reach a point of no return. And while this tipping point remains a source of disagreement in the scientific community, there is a consensus about the best way to prevent it: Rapidly cut global greenhouse emissions (GHG).
But the primary vehicle to achieve emission reductions, the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep warming below 2 C above pre-industrial levels — and preferably to limit temperature increase even further to 1.5 Celsius — is proving to be woefully inadequate.
According to a new report by the Universal Ecological Fund (UEF), around 75% of 184 Paris Agreement pledges have been judged insufficient to slow climate change. Worse still, some these pledges are not even being implemented.
The report is timed to coincide with the upcoming COP climate summit (to take place in Madrid after host Chile cancelled) where signatories to the Paris agreement can make new pledges with steeper emission cuts.
Since the Paris accord was ratified in 2016, only six countries have actually reviewed their pledges, with four upping their cuts and two weakening their pledges.
"Other than a handful of the pledges, namely the European Union and seven other countries, the pledges are quite inadequate," Robert Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and co-author of the report, told DW.
According to Watson, the pledges won''t keep temperatures from rising by 2 Celsius, much less the more ambitious target of 1.5 Celsius. "Simply, the pledges are far too little, too late," he added. "We wanted to push for much stronger pledges as soon as possible."
Also this week, a paper published in Bioscience Magazine involving more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries declared a climate emergency that could bring "untold suffering" unless urgent action was taken.
This isn''t the first time that the failures of the so-called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that are at the heart of the Paris Agreement have been highlighted.
A landmark September "United in Science" report that synthesizes climate research by major partner organizations including UN Environment, the Global Carbon Project and the IPCC, said that the Paris pledges need to be tripled to avert catastrophic warming.
If implemented, current pledges will achieve closer to 3 C warming at the end of this century, Pep Canadell, Executive Director Global Carbon Project and a report co-author, told DW of the Paris targets.
More concerning perhaps, he believes the chance to limit warming below 1.5 C has already passed and that unless we reach peak emissions before 2030, "the chances to stay below 2 C will be also largely lost."
One problem, according to the UEF report, is that emerging economies China and India, who are among the world''s biggest GHG emitters, have only pledged to reduce their emissions "intensity" relative to GDP by 2030. Ongoing economic growth will cause their emissions to increase in the coming decades, meaning these huge polluters have a long way to go to meet the Paris targets.
One rare ray of hope is the 28 Member State EU, which is expected to cut GHG emissions by 58% below 1990 levels by 2030.
Part of the problem with the Paris pledges, according to Dr Niklas Hohne, a founding partner of the Germany-based NewClimate Institute, is that such non-binding "bottom-up" commitments are not consistent with the broader goals. As an antidote, he says that nations need to immediately set a timetable to reach and sustain net-zero CO2 emissions.
"It''s no longer about small pledges," Hohne said of a net-zero CO2 emissions policy that the UK Labour Party has already committed to by 2030, as have Democratic Party sponsors of the Green New Deal in the US.
Watson agrees that net zero emissions needs to be the target by 2050, which would mean electricity, at the least, should be 100% renewable.
The US, historically the world''s biggest GHG emitter, has complicated matters when President Donald Trump''s administration this week confirmed its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Combined with Trump''s rollbacks of major federal climate regulations, the Obama Administration-made pledge to reduce emissions by 26-28% by 2025 will now likely not be met.
"We definitely regard this as a dangerous decision," said Sven Harmeling, a climate expert at CARE, an international NGO helping vulnerable communities adapt to the climate crisis, in response to the US withdrawal. "We call on other countries, but also stakeholders in the US, whether cities, whether business, to not get distracted by the isolating step of the US administration but to step up the fight against climate change," he told DW.
Watson sees potential to meet the Paris targets with or without Trump as state governments and private industry set their own decarbonization targets: "There are some sparks of hope that even in the US, in the absence of leadership from the administration and from Congress, some of the US states and industries are trying to go to low carbon," said Watson.
California, for example — which would be the 5th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP — has set itself a net zero emissions target by 2045. "That is a encouraging signal," said Hohne.
Nov. 2019
Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’. (BioScience Journal)
The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists.
“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. This entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”
There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating.
Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University and the lead author of the statement, said he was driven to initiate it by the increase in extreme weather he was seeing. A key aim of the warning is to set out a full range of “vital sign” indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown, rather than only carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.
“A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events,” said co-author Thomas Newsome, of the University of Sydney.
Other “profoundly troubling signs from human activities” selected by the scientists include booming air passenger numbers and world GDP growth. “The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” they said.
As a result of these human activities, there are “especially disturbing” trends of increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events, the scientists said: “Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have have largely failed to address this predicament.
Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.”
“We urge widespread use of the vital signs to allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of the crisis, realign priorities and track progress,” the scientists said.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the graphs and know things are going wrong,” said Newsome. “But it is not too late.”
The scientists identify some encouraging signs, including decreasing global birth rates, increasing solar and wind power and fossil fuel divestment.
They set out a series of urgently needed actions: Use energy far more efficiently and apply strong carbon taxes to cut fossil fuel use; Stabilise global population – currently growing by 200,000 people a day – using ethical approaches such as longer education for girls; End the destruction of nature and restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2; Eat mostly plants and less meat, and reduce food waste; Shift economic goals away from GDP growth.
“The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual,” the scientists said. The recent surge of concern was encouraging, they added, from the global school strikes to lawsuits against polluters and some nations and businesses starting to respond.
A warning of the dangers of pollution and a looming mass extinction of wildlife on Earth, also led by Ripple, was published in 2017. It was supported by more than 15,000 scientists and read out in parliaments from Canada to Israel. It came 25 years after the original “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in 1992, which said: “A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.”
Ripple said scientists have a moral obligation to issue warnings of catastrophic threats: “It is more important than ever that we speak out, based on evidence. It is time to go beyond just research and publishing, and to go directly to the citizens and policymakers.”
* European Parliament declares Climate Emergency
European lawmakers have voted to declare an EU-wide climate emergency, in a move aimed at increasing pressure on the incoming European Commission to take a stronger stance on climate change. The climate declaration was passed during a European Parliament (EP) debate on the upcoming United Nations COP25 climate summit that starts December 2 in Madrid.
In a statement after the vote, EU lawmakers urged the European Commission "to fully ensure all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned" with the 1.5-degrees-Celsius (2.7-degrees-Fahrenheit) target limit on global warming. The resolution calls on the EU to cut emissions by 55% by 2030 and to become climate neutral by 2050. European lawmakers have said the bloc must assume a leading role in the international fight against climate change.
Sep. 2019
Global Climate in 2015-2019: Climate change accelerates. (WMO)
The tell-tale signs and impacts of climate change – such as sea level rise, ice loss and extreme weather – increased during 2015-2019, which is set to be the warmest five-year period on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have also increased to record levels, locking in the warming trend for generations to come.
The WMO report on The Global Climate in 2015-2019, released to inform the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, says that the global average temperature has increased by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial period, and by 0.2°C compared to 2011-2015.
The climate statement – which covers until July 2019 - was released as part of a high-level synthesis report from leading scientific institutions United in Science under the umbrella of the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Summit 2019.
The report provides a unified assessment of the state of Earth system under the increasing influence of climate change, the response of humanity this far and projected changes of global climate in the future. It highlights the urgency and the potential of ambitious climate action in order to limit potentially irreversible impacts.
An accompanying WMO report on greenhouse gas concentrations shows that 2015-2019 has seen a continued increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to new records, with CO2 growth rates nearly 20% higher than the previous five years. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean for even longer.
Preliminary data from a subset of greenhouse gas observational sites for 2019 indicate that CO2 global concentrations are on track to reach or even exceed 410 ppm by the end of 2019.
“Climate change causes and impacts are increasing rather than slowing down,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, who is co-chair of the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Summit.
“Sea level rise has accelerated and we are concerned that an abrupt decline in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will exacerbate future rise. As we have seen this year with tragic effect in the Bahamas and Mozambique, sea level rise and intense tropical storms led to humanitarian and economic catastrophes,” he said.
“The challenges are immense. Besides mitigation of climate change, there is a growing need to adapt. According to the recent Global Adaptation Commission report the most powerful way to adapt is to invest in early warning services, and pay special attention to impact-based forecasts,” he said.
“It is highly important that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, notably from energy production, industry and transport. This is critical if we are to mitigate climate change and meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement,” he said.
“To stop a global temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the level of ambition needs to be tripled. And to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees, it needs to be multiplied by five,” he said.
Sea level rise:
Over the five-year period May 2014 -2019, the rate of global mean sea-level rise has amounted to 5 mm per year, compared with 4 mm per year in the 2007-2016 ten-year period.
This is substantially faster than the average rate since 1993 of 3.2 mm/year. The contribution of land ice melt from the world glaciers and the ice sheets has increased over time and now dominate the sea level budget, rather than thermal expansion.
Shrinking Ice:
Throughout 2015-2018, the Arctic’s average September minimum (summer) sea-ice extent was well below the 1981-2010 average, as was the average winter sea-ice extent. The four lowest records for winter occurred during this period. Multi-year ice has almost disappeared.
Antarctic February minimum (summer) and September maximum (winter) sea-ice extent values have become well below the 1981-2010 average since 2016. This is in contrast to the previous 2011-2015 period and the long term 1979-2018 period. Antarctic summer sea ice reached its lowest and second lowest extent on record in 2017 and 2018, respectively, with 2017 also being the second lowest winter extent.
The amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold, from 40 Gt per year in 1979-1990 to 252 Gt per year in 2009-2017.
The Greenland ice sheet has witnessed a considerable acceleration in ice loss since the turn of the millennium.
Ocean heat and acidity:
More than 90 % of the excess heat caused by climate change is stored in the oceans. 2018 had the largest ocean heat content values on record measured over the upper 700 meters, with 2017 ranking second and 2015 third.
The ocean absorbs around 30% of the annual anthropogenic emissions of CO2, thereby helping to alleviate additional warming. The ecological costs to the ocean, however, are high, as the absorbed CO2 reacts with seawater and changes the acidity of the ocean. There has been an overall increase in acidity of 26% since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Extreme events:
More than 90% of the natural disasters are related to weather. The dominant disasters are storms and flooding, which have also led to highest economic losses. Heatwaves and drought have led to human losses, intensification of forest fires and loss of harvest.
Heatwaves, which were the deadliest meteorological hazard in the 2015-2019 period, affecting all continents and resulting in numerous new temperature records. Almost every study of a significant heatwave since 2015 has found the hallmark of climate change, according to the report.
The largest economic losses were associated with tropical cyclones. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most devastating on record with more than US$ 125 billion in losses associated with Hurricane Harvey alone. On the Indian Ocean, in March and April 2019, unprecedented and devastating back-to-back tropical cyclones hit Mozambique.
Wildfires are strongly influenced by weather and climate phenomena. Drought substantially increases the risk of wildfire in most forest regions, with a particularly strong influence on long-lived fires. The three largest economic losses on record from wildfires have all occurred in the last four years.
In many cases, fires have led to massive releases of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Summer 2019 saw unprecedented wildfires in the Arctic region. In June alone, these fires emitted 50 megatons (Mt) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is more than was released by Arctic fires in the same month from 2010 to 2018 put together.
There were also massive forest fires in Canada and Sweden in 2018. There were also widespread fires in the non-renewable tropical rain forests in Southern Asia and Amazon, which have had impacts on the global carbon budget.
Climate change and extreme events
According to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, over the period 2015 to 2017, 62 of the 77 events reported show a significant anthropogenic influence on the event’s occurrence, including almost every study of a significant heatwave. An increasing number of studies are also finding a human influence on the risk of extreme rainfall events.
22 Sep. 2019
Landmark United in Science report informs Climate Action Summit
The world’s leading climate science organizations have joined forces to produce a landmark new report for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, underlining the glaring – and growing – gap between agreed targets to tackle global warming and the actual reality.
The report, United in Science, includes details on the state of the climate and presents trends in the emissions and atmospheric concentrations of the main greenhouse gases. It highlights the urgency of fundamental socio-economic transformation in key sectors such as land use and energy in order to avert dangerous global temperature increase with potentially irreversible impacts. It also examines tools to support both mitigation and adaptation.
“The Report provides a unified assessment of the state of our Earth system under the increasing influence of anthropogenic climate change, of humanity’s response thus far and of the far-reaching changes that science projects for our global climate in the future.
The scientific data and findings presented in the report represent the very latest authoritative information on these topics,” said the Science Advisory Group to the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit.
“It highlights the urgent need for the development of concrete actions that halt the worst effects of climate change.”
The Science Advisory Group comprises highly recognized and respected natural and social scientists, with expertise in different aspects of climate change, including on mitigation and adaptation.
The report, which was coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization, aims to present a “transparent envelope” of authoritative and actionable cutting-edge science.
The synthesis report consists of short summaries from contributing agencies: the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Global Atmosphere Watch, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Global Carbon Project, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Future Earth, Earth League and the Global Framework for Climate Services.
The synthesis is complemented by longer, individual reports, presented as a package to world leaders at the Climate Action Summit on 23 September.
Highlights from the report include:
The Global Climate in 2015-2019 - World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Warmest five-year period on record
The average global temperature for 2015–2019 is on track to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1°Celsius (± 0.1°C) above pre-industrial (1850–1900) times. Widespread and long-lasting heatwaves, record-breaking fires and other devastating events such as tropical cyclones, floods and drought have had major impacts on socio-economic development and the environment.
Continued decrease of sea ice and ice mass
Arctic summer sea-ice extent has declined at a rate of approximately 12% per decade during 1979-2018. The four lowest values for winter sea-ice extent occurred between 2015 and 2019.
Overall, the amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017. Glacier mass loss for 2015-2019 is the highest for any five-year period on record.
Sea-level rise is accelerating, sea water is becoming more acidic
The observed rate of global mean sea-level rise accelerated from 3.04 millimeters per year (mm/yr) during the period 1997–2006 to approximately 4mm/yr during the period 2007–2016. This is due to the increased rate of ocean warming and melting of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets. There has been an overall increase of 26% in ocean acidity since the beginning of the industrial era.
Record Greenhouse Gas Concentrations in the Atmosphere - WMO Global Atmosphere Watch
Levels of the main long-lived greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4)) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have reached new highs.
The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained 400 parts per million CO2 was about 3-5 million years ago, when global mean surface temperatures were 2-3°C warmer than today, ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica melted, parts of East Antarctica ice had retreated, all causing global see level rise of 10-20m compared with today.
In 2018, global CO2 concentration was 407.8 parts per million (ppm), 2.2 ppm higher than 2017. Preliminary data from a subset of greenhouse gas monitoring sites for 2019 indicate that CO2 concentrations are on track to reach or even exceed 410 parts per million (ppm) by the end of 2019.
Global Carbon Budget - Global Carbon Project
Carbon dioxide emissions grew 2% and reached a record high of 37 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018. There is still no sign of a peak in global emissions, even though they are growing slower than the global economy.
Current economic and energy trends suggest that emissions will be at least as high in 2019 as in 2018. Global GDP is expected to grow at 3.2% in 2019, and if the global economy decarbonized at the same rate as in the last 10 years, that would still lead to an increase in global emissions.
Despite extraordinary growth in renewable fuels over the past decade, the global energy system is still dominated by fossil fuel sources. The annual increase in global energy use is greater than the increase in renewable energy, meaning the fossil fuel use continues to grow. This growth needs to halt immediately.
The net-zero emissions needed to stabilize the climate requires both an acceleration in use of non-carbon energy sources and a rapid decline in the global share of fossil fuels in the energy mix. This dual requirement illustrates the scale of the challenge.
Natural CO2 sinks, such as vegetation and oceans, which remove about half of all emissions from human activities, will become less efficient at doing so. This underscores the need to reduce deforestation and expand natural CO2 sinks, particularly those in forests and soils that can be improved by better management and habitat restoration.
The emissions gap – where we are and where we need to be, report from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
The UNEP Emissions Gap Reports, with the tenth edition being published this November, assess the latest scientific studies on current and estimated future greenhouse gas emissions; they compare these with the emission levels permissible for the world to progress on a least-cost pathway to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. This difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” is known as the emissions gap.
Global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030, let alone by 2020, if current climate policies and ambition levels of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are maintained. Preliminary findings from the Emissions Gap Report 2019 indicate that greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in 2018.
The emissions gap in 2030 between emission levels under full implementation of conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and levels consistent with least-cost pathways to the 2°C target is 13 GtCO2e.
If just the unconditional NDCs are implemented, the gap increases to 15 GtCO2e. The gap in the case of the 1.5°C target and 2°C target is 29 GtCO2e and 32 GtCO2e respectively.
Current NDCs are estimated to lower global emissions in 2030 by up to 6 GtCO2e compared to a continuation of current policies. This level of ambition needs to be roughly tripled to align with the 2°C limit and must be increased around fivefold to align with the 1.5°C limit.
Implementing unconditional NDCs, and assuming that climate action continues consistently throughout the twenty-first century, would lead to a global mean temperature rise between 2.9°C and 3.4°C by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels.
If NDC ambitions are not increased immediately and backed up by action, exceeding the 1.5°C goal can no longer be avoided. If the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is very plausible that the goal of a well-below 2°C temperature increase is also out of reach.
A substantial part of the technical potential can be realized through scaling up and replicating existing, well-proven policies – such as switching to renewable energy and reforestation - that simultaneously contribute to key sustainable development goals.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Three IPCC Special Reports released in 2018 and 2019 assess complementary and specific aspects of climate change, ahead of the Sixth Assessment Report.
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C states that limiting warming to 1.5ºC is not physically impossible but would require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society. There are clear benefits to keeping warming to 1.5 ºC compared to 2 ºC or higher. Every bit of warming matters.
Limiting warming to 1.5ºC can go hand in hand with reaching other world goals such as achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty.
The Special Report on Climate Change and Land stressed that land is already under growing human pressure and climate change is adding to these pressures. At the same time, keeping global warming to well below 2ºC can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including land and food.
"The report shows that better land management can contribute to tackling climate change, but land is not the only solution. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including energy is essential if global warming is to be kept as close as possible to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels."
On 25 September 2019, the IPCC is due to release the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.
Climate Insights - Future Earth and Earth League
Consolidated evidence reinforces human influence as the dominant cause of changes to the Earth system, in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.
Growing climate impacts increase the risks of crossing critical tipping points. These refer to thresholds that, if crossed, lead to far-reaching, in some cases abrupt and/or irreversible changes.
There is a growing recognition that climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago.
As climate change intensifies, cities are particularly vulnerable to impacts such as heat stress and can play a key role in reducing emissions locally and globally.
Strategies for mitigation and for upscaling adaptive risk management are necessary going forward. Neither is adequate in isolation given the pace of climate change and magnitude of its impacts.
Only immediate and all-inclusive action encompassing: deep de-carbonization complemented by ambitious policy measures, protection and enhancement of carbon sinks and biodiversity, and efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, will enable us to meet the Paris Agreement.

Visit the related web page
Next (more recent) news item
Next (older) news item