People's Stories Environment

Global Climate in 2015-2019: Climate change accelerates
by UN News, World Meteorological Organization
23 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.
For 2015-2018, the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) reference glaciers indicates an average specific mass change of −908 mm water equivalent per year, higher than in all other five-year periods since 1950.
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.
Global Framework for Climate Services
Climate and early warning information services should underpin decision-making on climate action for adaptation.
Aug. 2019
According to new data from the World Meteorological Organization and Copernicus Climate Change Programme, July at least equalled, if not surpassed, the hottest month in recorded history. This follows the warmest ever June on record.
The data from the Copernicus Climate Change Programme, run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, is fed into the UN system by WMO. The figures show that, based on the first 29 days of the month, July 2019 will be on par with, and possibly marginally warmer than the previous warmest July, in 2016, which was also the warmest month ever.
The latest figures are particularly significant because July 2016 was during one of the strongest occurrence of the El Niño phenomenon, which contributes to heightened global temperatures. Unlike 2016, 2019 has not been marked by a strong El Niño.
“We have always lived through hot summers. But this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather’s summer,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, announcing the data in New York.
July 2019 will be around 1.2°C warmer than the pre-industrial era, according to the data.
“All of this means that we are on track for the period from 2015 to 2019 to be the five hottest years on record. This year alone, we have seen temperature records shattered from New Delhi to Anchorage, from Paris to Santiago, from Adelaide and to the Arctic Circle. If we do not take action on climate change now, these extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg. And, indeed, the iceberg is also rapidly melting,” Mr Guterres said.
“Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives, and for our lives. It is a race that we can and must win,” he underlined.
Exceptional heat has been observed across the globe in recent week, with a string of European countries logging record highs temperatures that have caused disruption to transport and infrastructure and stress on people''''s health and the environment. As the heat dome spread northwards through Scandinavia and towards Greenland, it accelerated the already above average rate of ice melt.
“July has re-written climate history, with dozens of new temperature records at local, national and global level,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
“The extraordinary heat was accompanied by dramatic ice melt in Greenland, in the Arctic and on European glaciers. Unprecedented wildfires raged in the Arctic for the second consecutive month, devastating once pristine forests which used to absorb carbon dioxide and instead turning them into fiery sources of greenhouse gases. This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action,” Mr Taalas said.
“WMO expects that 2019 will be in the five top warmest years on record, and that 2015-2019 will be the warmest of any equivalent five-year period on record. Time is running out to reign in dangerous temperature increases with multiple impacts on our planet,” he said.
Such heatwaves are consistent with what we expect from climate change and rising global temperatures.
Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom saw new national temperature records on 25 July, as weather maps were redrawn to include – for the first time – temperatures of above 40°C. Paris recorded its hottest day on record, with a temperature of 42.6 °C at 16:32, an unprecedented value since the beginning of measurements.
The heatwave was caused by warm air coming up from North Africa and Spain and this was then transported from Central Europe to Scandinavia, Norway saw new station records on 27 July, and 28 locations had “tropical nights” above 20°C. The Finnish capital Helsinki set a new station record of 33.2°C on 28 July and in the south of Finland, Porvoo saw a temperature of 33.7°C.
The anomalously high temperatures are expected to enhance melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which already saw an extensive melt episode between 11 and 20 June. The persistent high melt and runoff in the last few weeks means the season total is running near tothe 2012 record high loss, according to Polar climate scientists monitoring the Greenland ice sheet.
The station Nord, situated 900 kilometres from the North Pole, measured a temperature of 16°C and in western Greenland, the station of Qaarsut (near 71°N) recorded a temperature of 20.6°C on 30 July. At Summit Camp station, at the peak of the ice sheet and at an altitude of 3200m, a temperature of 0.0°C was measured.
“It is important to remember that that any given day or year, Greenland ice sheet surface mass budget is a result largely of weather, though with the background climate trend affecting this,” tweeted Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute.
This will also impact Arctic sea ice, which where the loss of ice extent through the first half of July matched loss rates observed in 2012, the year which had the lowest September sea ice extent in the satellite record, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The high temperatures also fanned wildfire activity in the Arctic, including in Greenland, Alaska and Siberia.
The Russian Federal Forestry Agency estimates that, as of 29 July, wildfires in Siberia have burned 33,200 square kilometres, with 745 active fires, causing massive ecological devastation and impacting air quality for hundreds of kilometres. The smoke can be clearly seen from space.
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts/Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service estimated that July 2019 wildfire CO2 emissions for the Arctic Circle totalled 75.5047 megatonnes, which is comparable to the 2017 annual fossil fuel emissions of Colombia. This was more than double July 2018 levels, and followed a record month in June.
“By burning vegetation, the fires also reduce the capacity of the biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide. Action against climate change necessitates rather that we should expand this capacity,” said Oksana Tarasova, Chief of WMO’s Atmosphere and Environment Research Division.
June-July heat
The July heatwave follows an unusually early and exceptionally intense heatwave in June, which set new temperature records in Europe and ensured that the month of June was the hottest on record for the continent, with the average temperature of 2°C above normal.
June was also the warmest June on record globally.
In parts of Europe, the heat was accompanied by below-average precipitation. On 31 July, WMO’s regional climate monitoring centre for Europe, operated by the German Weather Service, or Deutscher Wetterdienst, updated its Climate Watch advisory on drought. This provides guidance to national meteorological and hydrological services in issuing climate advisories for their territory.
“A continuation of drought conditions and below-normal precipitation in large parts of Central and Northeastern Europe. In these areas mostly only 60-80 % of normal precipitation was recorded in June, in some parts even less.
There was also only scarce rainfall in July and forecasts show continued below-normal precipitation in most of the area with weekly deficits of partly 10-30mm for this week with a probability of 80% and higher,” it said.
In the wake of the heatwave, some European countries have faced very heavy precipitation, but it is not enough to undo the impact of drought conditions.
“Next week, above-normal precipitation will be expected over Central Europe, but this might not be sufficient to compensate for the rain deficits during the weeks before and therefore soils will be still dry. Northeastern Europe (Baltic countries and southern Finland) will still receive not more than below-normal to normal precipitation next week and therefore drought conditions are likely to continue.
Drought conditions can result in harvest losses, forest fires, lack of animal food water restrictions, restrictions of ship traffic due to low water levels,“ said the Deutscher Wetterdienst.
During the heatwave, national meteorological and hydrological services issued heat alerts - including the top-level red alert - and, in some areas, fire warnings to minimize the risk to life and the environment. Heat-health action plans mobilized civil protection efforts across the region.
Heat events kill thousands of people every year and often trigger secondary events such as wildfires and failures to electrical grids. Urbanization compounds the problem. Heat stroke, dehydration, cardiovascular and other temperature related diseases are major health risks.
The new absolute record of 42.6°C for Paris was recorded on 25 July at the centennial weather station in Paris-Montsouris, and broke the previous record dating back to 28 July 1947 with 40.4 °C. This temperature is typical of the average July temperature in Bagdad, Iraq. The night of 24/25 July was also exceptionally hot, with minimal temperatures above 25°C and even 28.3°C in a downtown Paris weather station. What is striking is the margin with which the records were beaten. Lille recorded 41.4°C, that’s nearly 4°C above the previous record. France set a new national temperature record of 46°C during the last heatwave on 28 June.
It was only the second time Météo-France has ever issued red level warnings for a heatwave in France. The first time was during June''''s heatwave when several departments in the south were put on red alert. But it is unprecedented for Paris and the north of the country to be on a red alert for a heatwave. Thousands of hectares were burned by wildfires in northern France, where it is very unusual to see wildfires.
The Deutscher Wetterdienst described 25 July as “a day which will make weather history.” Germany set a new national temperature record (provisional figure) of 42.6°C in Lingen, near the Dutch border, defeating the old record by 2.3 °C. There were 25 weather stations above 40 °C. The previous national temperature record was 40.3°C (5 July 2015).
The Netherlands broke a 75-year-old heat record (set in Aug 1944) with a temperature of 40.7°C at Gilye Rijen. Belgium also set a new national record of 41.8°C. Luxembourg set a new national record of 40.8°C.
On 25 July, temperatures in the United Kingdom reached 38.7°C at Cambridge Botanical Gardens, the highest ever officially recorded, breaking the previous record of 38.5°C recorded in Faversham, Kent, in August 2003, according to the Met Office.
Climate change and heatwaves
“Such intense and widespread heatwaves carry the signature of man-made climate change. This is consistent with the scientific finding showing evidence of more frequent, drawn out and intense heat events as greenhouse gas concentrations lead to a rise in global temperatures,” according to Johannes Cullmann, Director of WMO’s Climate and Water Department. WMO will submit a five year report on the state of the climate 2015-2019 to the UN Climate Action Summit in September.
Many scientific studies have been conducted on the links between climate change and heatwaves.
Human-influenced climate change is likely to have added 1.5-3 ºC to the extreme temperatures recorded during Europe’s July 2019, according to a report by World Weather Attribution, which underlined the manifold risks.
“Heatwaves the height of summer pose a substantial risk to human health and are potentially lethal. This risk is aggravated by climate change, but also by other factors such as an aging population, urbanisation, changing social structures, and levels of preparedness. The full impact is only known after a few weeks when the mortality figures have been analysed.
Effective heat emergency plans, together with accurate weather forecasts such as those issued before this heatwave, reduce impacts and are becoming even more important in light of the rising risks,” it said.
“It is noteworthy that every heatwave analysed so far in Europe in recent years (2003, 2010, 2015, 2017, 2018, June 2019, this study) was found to be made much more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change. How much more depends very strongly on the event definition: location, season, intensity and duration. The July 2019 heatwave was so extreme over continental Western Europe that the observed magnitudes would have been extremely unlikely without climate change,” it added.
In its In its Fifth Assessment Report, released in 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that “it is very likely that human influence has contributed to the observed global scale changes in the frequency and intensity of daily temperature extremes since the mid-20th century. It is likely that human influence has more than doubled the probability of occurrence of heat waves in some locations.”
In its 2018 report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the IPCC said that climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5 °C and increase further with 2 °C.
Limiting warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C could result in 420 million fewer people being exposed to severe heatwaves, it said.
Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people exposed to heatwaves was estimated to have increased by around 125 million persons, as the average length of individual heatwaves was 0.37 days longer, compared to the period between 1986 and 2008, according to the World Health Organization.
Many countries have issued national climate assessments and scenarios which underline the close connection between climate change and heat.
For instance, the UK State of the Climate report showed an increase in higher maximum temperatures and longer warm spells. The hottest day of the year for the most recent decade (2008-2017) has increased by 0.8°C above the 1961-1990 average. Warm spells have also more than doubled in length – increasing from 5.3 days in 1961-90 to over 13 days in the most recent decade (2008-2017).
The summer of 2018 was the joint warmest on record for the UK as a whole and the hottest ever for England. The Met Office research showed that human-induced climate change made the 2018 record-breaking UK summer temperatures about 30 times more likely than it would have been naturally. By 2050 these are expected to happen every other year.
France has also reported an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves over the past 30 years, according to Météo-France, in an observation echoed elsewhere in Europe.
Swiss climate change scenarios warn that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, by the middle of this century, average summer temperatures may be up to 4.5 °C higher than now.
“The increases in the highest temperatures are even more pronounced than for the average seasonal temperatures. By 2060, the hottest days in an average summer could be up to 5.5 °C higher than they are today. This is explained in part by the fact that less water will be evaporating and cooling the ground because there will be less moisture in the soil,” says the Swiss report.
“The regions of Europe that surround the Mediterranean Sea, including Switzerland, are affected by some of the most severe increases in temperature extremes worldwide. This trend has been apparent even over recent decades and is very likely to continue into the future,” it says.

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Across the globe, millions of young people take part in biggest climate protest ever
by Covering Climate Now, Unicef, Fridays 4 Future
21 Sep. 2019
Millions of people demonstrated across the world yesterday demanding urgent action to tackle global heating, as they united across timezones and cultures to take part in the biggest climate protest in history.
In an explosion of the youth movement started by the Swedish school striker Greta Thunberg just over 12 months ago, people protested from the Pacific islands, through Australia, across-south east Asia and Africa into Europe and onwards to the Americas.
For the first time since the school strikes for climate began last year, young people called on adults to join them – and they were heard.
Trade unions representing hundreds of millions of people around the world mobilised in support, employees left their workplaces, doctors and nurses marched and workers at firms to join the climate strikes.
In the estimated 185 countries where demonstrations took place, the protests often had their individual targets; from rising sea levels in the Solomon Islands, toxic waste in South Africa, to air pollution and plastic waste in India and coal expansion in Australia.
But the overall message was unified – a powerful demand for an urgent step-change in action to cut emissions and stabilise the climate.
The demonstrations took place on the eve of a UN climate summit, called by the secretary general, António Guterres, to inject urgency into government action to restrict the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C, as agreed under the 2015 Paris agreement.
Carbon emissions climbed to a record high last year, despite a warning from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that there is little more than a decade left to act to slash emissions and stabilise the climate.
“We are out here to reclaim our right to live, our right to breathe and our right to exist, which is all being denied to us by an inefficient policy system that gives more deference to industrial and financial objectives rather than environmental standards,” said Avinash Chanchal, a young protester in Delhi.
The action began in the Pacific Islands, where citizens have repeatedly asked wealthier nations to do more to prevent rising sea levels. Over the course of the day children and students from Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Tonga, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea took part in performances, protests, sporting events and discussions.
The demonstrations spread across Australia – the world’s biggest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas – where more than 300,000 people took to the streets in 100 rallies.
Siobhan Sutton, 15-year-old climate striker in Sydney, Australia: "Even though we ourselves aren''t sick, the planet which we live on is, and we are protesting and fighting for it."
In Tokyo, students and environmental activists marched through the business and shopping district of Shibuya, chanting “Climate Justice!” while holding hand-painted placards with messages such as “Go Green,” ‘Save the Earth,” and “the Earth is on fire.” Rallies were also held in more than a dozen cities around Japan, including Kyoto.
No protests were authorised in China, the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but Zheng Xiaowen of the China Youth Climate Action Network said Chinese youth would take action one way or another.
“Chinese youth have their own methods,” she said. “We also pay attention to the climate and we are also thinking deeply, interacting, taking action, and so many people are very conscientious on this issue.”
In Thailand, hundreds of young people demonstrated outside the environment ministry in Bangkok and dropped to the ground feigning death.
“We are the future and we deserve better,” said 12-year-old Ralyn ‘Lilly’ Satidtanasarn – who has been dubbed “Thailand’s Greta” for her campaign against plastic bag use in a country where each person uses 3,000 throwaway bags a year.
In India’s capital Delhi, where the suffocating air pollution was the target of the demonstration, Rishika Singh, 18, said: “It’s the poorest who suffer the most. The rich are better off – they make the use of air conditioning and private cars for comfort.”
In Kenya’s capital Nairobi some young protesters wore hats and outfits made from plastic bottles to highlight the dangers of plastic waste, a major threat to people living in the developing world.
Strikes took place in several Nigerian cities, including Lagos, which is often beset by formidable quantities of toxic waste including thousands of tons of e-waste from the EU.
“Leaders should listen to what the climate scientists are saying. No leader should forfeit the future of younger generation,” said Oladosu Adenike, an activist in the Fridays4Future campaign in Nigeria.
A crowd gathered in the financial district of Sandton in Johannesburg, outside the offices of Sasol, a huge South African energy and chemical company.
“We don’t really have a way out of this,” said Natalie Kapsosideris, 16. “The future looks really dismal at this point. There’s not going to be a lot of food available, there will be droughts, floods, natural disasters. The fact that fossil fuel companies get away with stealing our future from us … and it’s all because they want to make money.”
Chantal Dette of African Climate Alliance in Cape Town, South Africa: "What motivates me the most is that about a year ago my country was suffering water shortages and drought. We faced the ''day zero'' scenario when the taps will be turned off. People in the Cape Flats [the townships on the outskirts of Cape Town] were really suffering."
Angel, climate striker in Kampala, Uganda: "I am protesting because we want to keep the climate green. We have many environmental problems in Uganda, because the forests are being razed and wetlands are being drained. We have to protect the planet, there is no planet B."
Demonstrations took place in most European countries, with huge crowds in Warsaw, Poland and more than 1.4 million people taking action across Germany. In Berlin, demonstrators blocked roads and protested outside the German chancellery.
Thousands took to the streets in Dublin. Luke Corkery, a university student, said: “This is a movement led by young people across the globe. We’re not just looking for an excuse for a day off school or college; we’re standing up for the future of our planet.”
Tristan Vancleef, 16-year-old climate striker in Brussels, Belgium: "This is about my future, not only my future, but the future of my entire generation and all the generations to come after ours."
Jessica Ahmed, 16-year-old climate striker in London, England: "If politicians were taking the appropriate action we need and had been taking this action a long time ago when it was recognized the world was changing in a negative way, then I would not have to be skipping school."
It is estimated that more than 250,000 people turned out for the protests in New York, with thousands more demonstrating in Boston, Miami and San Francisco.
Alyssa Carle, climate striker in Hudsonville, Michigan, United States: "I hope that we can make people see that climate change is real, and it''s happening all around us as we speak. We deserve cleaner air, we deserve cleaner water, we deserve a cleaner world."
Varshini Prakash, director of Sunrise Movement in the United States: "Young people in more than 140 countries are taking to the streets to demand that our political leaders treat the climate crisis like the emergency that it is. Fossil fuel companies will stop at nothing to squeeze every last drop of money from the Earth—but our generation is mobilizing by the thousands and will strike again and again until we win."
Vic Barrett said: "My generation has never known a world free from the impacts of climate change. Time is running out. This decade is our last chance to stop the destruction of our people and our planet. This is our time to join in solidarity with communities around the world to fight for a just future."
In Mexico City, protesters chanted “Se ve, se siente, la tierra está caliente” – “You see it, you feel it. The earth is getting hotter.” In Brazil, where recent fires in the Amazon have drawn attention to the climate emergency, students attended protests in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and the capital Brasília.
21 Sep. 2019
For 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years the need for urgent climate action has never been clearer. (UN News)
Students and young activists on Saturday threw down the gauntlet to world leaders heading to United Nations Headquarters for high-level climate talks, demanding that they “stop wasting time” and work harder to curb carbon emissions, “or we will vote you out.”
“We have been waiting for you!” Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Youth Envoy, said, welcoming the boisterous crowd of young climate leaders, who made it clear from the very start of the day-long event that global political leaders are now on notice: they must make radical changes to shift the world away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy, protect our oceans, and promote sustainable consumption.
The first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit follows Friday’s global ‘climate strike’, which saw millions of young people from across the globe walk out of school and jam streets in major cities, from New York to New Delhi and Santiago to San Francisco, waving protest signs with slogans like: “Every disaster movie starts with a scientist being ignored”; and “I’m ditching school because you’re ditching the planet.”
“Yesterday, millions of people across the globe marched and demanded real climate action, especially young people,” said Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who helped ignite a global movement. “We showed that we are united. And that we young people are unstoppable”.
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said “Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Millions of young people all over the world are already being affected by it. If we don’t act now, the impact will be increasingly severe.”
''Global emissions are increasing, temperatures rising and the impacts of climate change are growing. Climate change is already affecting the lives of all people, but for the 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years, the issue is felt with far more urgency as it shapes our lives in ways never witnessed before. The need for urgent climate action has never been clearer''.
''The World Meteorological Organization says the world is now experiencing the warmest five-year period on record.. Heatwaves, record-breaking fires and other devastating events like cyclones, floods and drought are impacting more people and the environment. Food insecurity and health impacts are growing. But the world keeps investing in fossil fuels''.
Giving a front-line perspective, Fijian climate change action advocate Komal Kumar said her homeland was suffering greatly from the impact of a climate crisis it had contributed very little to creating. But people from her generation worldwide were “living in constant fear and climate anxiety … Fearing the future.”
“Things are black and white for us: We are not insurance policies, we are human beings, we are communities. Is it too much to ask you to walk the talk, are we really looking forward to false hope?” she asked.
“We demand action. Stop wasting time. Stop hindering the work [towards a sustainable future] for short term profits. Engage young people in the design of adaptation plans,” said Ms. Kumar, who warned: “We will hold you accountable. And if you do not remember, we will mobilize to vote you out.”
Argentinian climate activist Bruno Rodriguez declared climate change “the political crisis, cultural crisis of our time. Enough is enough. We don’t want fossil fuels anymore.”
“The science is clear; our world leaders have an obligation to make radical change,” he stressed, adding that young climate changemakers are building a new “collective consciousness.”
Turning to the Secretary-General, Mr. Rodrigues said: “Let’s stop asking world leaders to just listen to science and demand they act on science.”.
* Covering Climate Now is a global journalism initiative from 300 outlets worldwide, with a combined audience of more than 1 billion people:
Sep. 2019
Thousands of scientists and academics from across the world support the climate strike
The youth climate movement is calling for a global general strike. We, the undersigned scientists and academics, support them wholeheartedly. We pledge to support their strike in our country’s main day of action (20th and/or 27th September), and encourage people from other professions and walks of life to support the strike and this movement.
The youth climate movement represents the hopes and fears of the coming generation. They demand more ambitious climate action and the prevention of ecocide and biodiversity loss.
As scientists, we confirm that the youth movement’s concerns are well-founded and rest on solid, incontrovertible evidence. The current level of action and ambition falls far short of what is needed to secure a safe future for this and all other generations.
The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change binds states to keep warming well below 2°C, and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. We are already witnessing the serious ecosystem and human impacts of around 1°C warming.
We must urgently reduce the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and reduce them to (net) zero at the latest worldwide between 2040 and 2050. The more rapidly we cut fossil fuel use and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the more likely our chances of limiting warming to 1.5 °C.
Taking global justice into account, this change should be even faster in industrialised countries such as the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Democratic decision-making, including youth, through citizen assemblies and juries, is necessary. This must accompany unprecedented rapid and ambitious action, including introducing renewable energy at the necessary speed and scale; consistently implementing energy-saving measures; and altering our patterns of nutrition, mobility, and consumption.
Many social, economic and technological alternatives exist that can enhance human well-being without destroying our planetary life-support systems. Despite this, no industrialised English speaking country has adopted policies anywhere near the level of ambition required.
Our politicians have a responsibility to act in a timely manner; with sufficient ambition; and ensuring a socially balanced distribution of the costs and benefits, through the principles of a just transition.
The enormous mobilisation of the Climate Strike and Fridays 4 Future movement shows that young people have understood the situation. As scientists and academic experts in other fields, we strongly support their demand for rapid and forceful action, and consider it our social responsibility to point out the consequences of inadequate action.
Only if we act quickly and consistently can we limit global warming, halt the mass extinction of animal and plant species, preserve the natural basis for life and create a future worth living for present and future generations. This is exactly what the young people of Climate Strike are calling for.
They deserve our respect and full support, we are proud to join them and encourage people of all ages, professions and walks of life to join them.
Sep. 2019
Climate Change - There is no greater threat facing the rights of the next generation of children, says Henrietta Fore - Executive Director, UNICEF
It sounds obvious that all children need these basics to sustain healthy lives – a clean environment to live in, clean air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat – and it sounds strange to be making this point in 2019.
Yet climate change has the potential to undermine all of these basic rights and indeed most of the gains made in child survival and development over the past 30 years. There is perhaps no greater threat facing the rights of the next generation of children.
The Food and Agriculture Organization noted last year that climate change is becoming a key force behind the recent continued rise in global hunger, and as escalating droughts and flooding degrade food production, the next generation of children will bear the greatest burden of hunger and malnutrition.
We are already seeing evidence of extreme weather events driven by climate change creating more frequent and more destructive natural disasters, and while future forecasts vary, according to the International Organization for Migration, the most frequently cited number of environmental migrants expected worldwide by 2050 is 200 million, with estimates as high as 1 billion.
As temperatures increase and water becomes scarcer it is children who will feel the deadliest impact of waterborne diseases. Today, more than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence and almost 160 million in high-drought severity zones.
Regions like the Sahel, which are especially reliant on agriculture, grazing and fishing, are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In this arid region, rains are projected to get even shorter and less predictable in the future, and alarmingly, the region is warming up at a rate one and a half times faster than the global average.
In the Sahel, the climate gets hotter and the poor get poorer, and it is all too common for armed groups to exploit the social grievances that arise under such pressurized conditions.
These challenges will only be compounded by the impact of air pollution, toxic waste and groundwater pollution damaging children’s health.
In 2017 approximately 300 million children were living in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution – six or more times higher than international guidelines, and it contributes to the deaths of around 600,000 children under the age of 5. Even more will suffer lasting damage to their developing brains and lungs.
And, by 2040, one in four children will live in areas of extreme water stress and many thousands will be made sick by polluted water. The management and protection of clean, accessible groundwater supplies, and the management of plastic waste are very fast becoming defining child health issues for our time.
To mitigate climate change, governments and business must work together to tackle the root causes by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile, we must give the highest priority to efforts to find adaptations that reduce environmental impacts on children.
To turn the tide on air pollution, governments and business must work hand in hand to reduce fossil fuel consumption, develop cleaner agricultural, industrial and transport systems and invest in scaling renewable energy sources.
May 2019
With deadly cyclones on the rise, UNICEF raises concern about impact of climate change on children
The cyclone that recently struck India and the back-to-back cyclones that tore through Mozambique in March and April have caused serious damage to the lives of thousands of children. They should be an urgent wake-up call to world leaders on the serious risks that extreme weather events pose to the lives of children, UNICEF said today.
"We are witnessing a worrisome trend," says Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. "Cyclones, droughts and other extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity. As we have seen in Mozambique and elsewhere, poorer countries and communities are disproportionately affected. For children who are already vulnerable, the impact can be devastating."
More than 120,000 children were affected by Cyclone Kenneth, the strongest storm Mozambique has ever recorded. At least 400 schools were damaged or destroyed, affecting over 40,000 schoolchildren. A cholera outbreak has been declared in the affected area of Cabo Delgado. The April 25 cyclone came just six weeks after Cyclone Idai pummeled the country, affecting 1 million children. Nearly two months on, close to 25,000 people continue to live in shelters.
Meanwhile in Odisha, India, 28 million people, including 10 million children, are in the path of Cyclone Fani. Some 1 million people have already been evacuated in preparation for what has been described as India''s strongest cyclone in more than 20 years.
"Children will bear the brunt of these disasters," said Gautam Narasimhan, UNICEF Senior Adviser on Climate Change.
"This is not business as usual. Climate change is linked to rising sea levels and the increase in rainfall associated with cyclones, thus causing more devastation in coastal but also inland areas.
In the short term, the most vulnerable children are at risk of drowning and landslides, deadly diseases including cholera and malaria, malnutrition from reduced agricultural production, and psychological trauma - all of which are compounded when health centers and schools are impacted.
In the long term, cycles of poverty can linger for years and limit the capacity of families and communities to adapt to climate change and to reduce the risk of disasters."
Sep. 2018
Record heatwaves, floods, droughts a stark vision of the world for future generations, by Ted Chaiban. (Unicef)
The large number of extreme weather events around the world, including floods in southern India, wildfires in the western United States and heatwaves across much of the northern hemisphere, are putting children in immediate danger, as well as jeopardizing their futures, UNICEF warned today.
“In any crisis, children are among the most vulnerable, and the extreme weather events we are seeing around the world are no exception,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programmes. “Over the past few months, we have seen a stark vision of the world we are creating for future generations. “As more extreme weather events increase the number of emergencies and humanitarian crises, it is children who will pay the highest price,” he added.
June and July saw record high temperatures set across much of the northern hemisphere, with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reporting the first six months of the year have made it the hottest La Niña year on record.
From North America to East Asia, and from the Arctic Circle to Europe, large parts of the globe have experienced heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods, and landslides resulting in injury and loss of life, environmental damage and widespread loss to livelihoods including harvest losses.
Countries in Central America and the Caribbean are preparing for the peak of the hurricane season while still trying to recover from the devastating 2017 season, which was the costliest on record.
While individual weather events cannot specifically be attributed to climate change, the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather -- including recent high temperatures, intense rains and slow-moving weather fronts -- are in line with predictions of how human activities are affecting the global climate.
Such events can cause death and devastation, and can also contribute to the increased spread of major killers of children, such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. And as these extreme climate events increase in frequency and magnitude, the risks to children will likely outpace global capacity to mitigate them as well as to provide humanitarian response.
“As the world experiences a steady rise in climate-driven extreme weather events, it is children’s lives and futures that will be the most disrupted,” added Chaiban. “Therefore, it’s vital that Governments and the international community take concrete steps to safeguard children’s future and their rights. The worst impacts of climate change are not inevitable, but the time for action is now.”
Numerous studies have documented that human-induced climate change has increased the frequency and severity of heatwaves across the globe. Children are especially at risk as they adjust more slowly than adults to changes in environmental heat, and are more susceptible to heat-related health risks, with children under 12 months old particularly vulnerable.
Infants and small children are more likely to die or suffer from heatstroke because they are unable to regulate their body temperature and control their surrounding environment. Extreme heat conditions also increase the need for safe and reliable drinking water, while in many cases rendering such water more scarce through evaporation.
Floods threaten children’s survival and development, with direct impacts including injuries and death by drowning. Beyond these immediate risks, floods compromise safe water supplies and damage sanitation facilities, increasing the risk of diarrhoea and other disease outbreaks, as well as impacting children’s access to education.
Damage to housing endangers children’s well-being, particularly if emergency shelter is either scarce or inadequate. It also destroys infrastructure, making it difficult to move lifesaving assistance where needed.
Droughts have multiple effects on poor families and communities. Crops fail, livestock die and income drops, leading to food insecurity for the poor as well as rising food prices globally. Water becomes scarce and the lack of food and water, as well as inequitable access to these necessities, can result in migration and social disorder, with children among the most vulnerable to the consequences of these effects.
* UN Office for Human Rights: Analytical study on the relationship between climate change and the rights of the child:


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