New climate predictions increase likelihood of breaching 1.5°C threshold in next 5 years
by World Meteorological Organization, agencies
27 May 2021 (WMO)
There is about a 40% chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level in at least one of the next five years – and these odds are increasing with time, according to a new climate update issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
There is a 90% likelihood of at least one year between 2021-2025 becoming the warmest on record, which would dislodge 2016 from the top ranking, according to the Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the WMO lead centre for such predictions.
The annual update harnesses the expertise of internationally acclaimed climate scientists and the best prediction systems from leading climate centres around the world to produce actionable information for decision-makers.
“These are more than just statistics,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather, and greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development,” he said.
“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably and inexorably closer to the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is yet another wakeup call that the world needs to fast-track commitments to slash greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality,” said Prof. Taalas. “Technological advances now make it possible to track greenhouse gas emissions back to their sources as a means of precisely targeting reduction efforts,” he noted.
“It is also underlines the need for climate adaptation. Only half of 193 WMO Members have state of the art early warning services. Countries should continue to develop the services that will be needed to support adaptation in climate-sensitive sectors – such as health, water, agriculture and renewable energy – and promote early warning systems that reduce the adverse impacts of extreme events.
Besides limitations in early warning services we are having severe gaps in weather observations especially in Africa and island states. This has a major negative impact on the accuracy if the early warnings in those areas and globally. We need to invest in the basic networks as well.” he concluded.
In 2020 – one of the three warmest years on record – the global average temperature was 1.2 °C above the pre-industrial baseline, according to the WMO’s report on the State of the Global Climate 2020, released in April. It highlighted the acceleration in climate change indicators like rising sea levels, melting sea ice, and extreme weather, as well as worsening impacts on socio-economic development.
The Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update confirms that trend. In the coming five years, the annual mean global temperature is likely to be at least 1°C warmer - within the range 0.9°C – 1.8°C - than preindustrial levels.
The chance of temporarily reaching 1.5°C has roughly doubled compared to last year’s predictions. This is mainly due to using an improved temperature dataset to estimate the baseline rather than sudden changes in climate indicators. It is very unlikely (10%) that the 5 year mean annual global temperature for the entire 2021-2025 period will be 1.5°C warmer than preindustrial levels, according to the climate update.
Professor Adam Scaife is the head of seasonal to decadal prediction at the Met Office. Commenting on the update, he said: “Assessing the increase in global temperature in the context of climate change refers to the long-term global average temperature, not to the averages for individual years or months. Nevertheless, a temporary exceedance of the 1.5 degree level may already be seen in the next few years.”
The Paris Agreement seeks to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2°C degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C. National commitments to cut emissions, known as nationally determined contributions, currently fall far short of what is needed to achieve this target.
The year 2021, and the crucial climate change negotiations, COP26, in November, have been widely described as a “make-or-break” chance to prevent climate change spiralling ever more out of control.
The Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update takes into account natural variations as well as human influences on climate to provide the best possible forecasts of temperature, rainfall, wind patterns and other variables for the coming five years.
The forecast models do not take into consideration changes in emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, the impacts of which on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have been small to date, owing to the long lifetimes of many of these gases.
With the UK’s Met Office acting as lead centre, climate prediction groups from Spain, Germany, Canada, China, USA, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Denmark contributed new predictions this year. Combining forecasts from climate prediction centres worldwide enables a higher quality product than what can be obtained from any single source.
Comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place are the responsibility of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which also issued a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. http://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
* *G7: Address Financing Gap for Climate Loss & Damage. (Report from Stamp Out Poverty, agencies): http://www.robinhoodtax.org.uk/sites/default/files/Spotlighting-the-Finance-Gap-Loss-and-Damage-brief.pdf
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Recognition of the right to a healthy environment
by UN human rights experts
Recognition of the right to a healthy environment key to address the environmental crisis and protect human rights.
On the eve of World Environment Day, a group of more than fifty United Nations experts called on States to take urgent and timely action to recognize and implement the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a vital response to the current multi-faceted environmental crisis.
The world is currently facing a climate emergency, pervasive toxic pollution, dramatic loss of biodiversity, and a surge in emerging infectious diseases of zoonotic origin, such as COVID-19.
The environmental crisis has negative impacts on a wide range of human rights including the rights to life, health, water, sanitation, food, decent work, development, education, peaceful assembly and cultural rights, as well as the right to live in a healthy environment.
The adverse effects have a disproportionate impact on women and girls and the rights of billions of people, especially those who are already vulnerable to environmental harm including people living in poverty, minorities, older persons, LGBT persons, racially and ethnically marginalized groups, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, persons with disabilities, migrants, internally displaced persons, and children.
Peoples and communities historically subject to exploitation, including people of African descent, continue to bear the brunt of pollution, environmental degradation and climate change, including in some actions ostensibly intended to protect the environment. In addition, environmental human rights defenders have been facing a shocking rate of killings, threats, arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation as a direct result of their legitimate work on human rights and the environment.
Transformative actions are urgently required, not only to address the COVID-19 pandemic but to protect the environment and human rights, and to address the drivers of climate disruption, toxic pollution, biodiversity loss, and zoonotic diseases, including by requiring businesses to respect the rights of affected communities and the environment.
As human rights experts of the United Nations system, we call for human rights, including the right to a healthy environment, to be placed at the heart of the required transformations related decision-making processes.
We need to address the root causes of inter-related environmental disasters and seize this opportunity to ‘build forward better’ in order to achieve a just and sustainable future and leave no one behind.
Applying a rights-based approach to the environmental crisis not only clarifies what is at stake; it catalyzes ambitious action, emphasizes prevention, focuses on the needs of those most affected and increases accountability.
The rights-based approach would help address inequality and ensure protection for all members of society, with a particular emphasis on people in vulnerable situations.
One of the key elements of guaranteeing a human rights-based response is through global recognition and implementation of the right to a clean, safe, healthy and sustainable environment. If such a right were to be respected, protected and fulfilled, it would provide an important safeguard for people and the planet.
Currently the right to a healthy environment has been legally recognised by 156 States (out of 193) in constitutions, legislation and regional treaties. However, the UN has not yet formally recognized this right.
The first step towards the recognition of the right to a healthy environment occurred almost 50 years ago, as UN member States met in Stockholm, Sweden, during the United Nations Conference on the Environment, and declared that: ‘Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being.’
Since then, UN member States have adopted a range of resolutions on the inter-linkages between the environment and the enjoyment of human rights. The Human Rights Council adopted its first resolution on human rights and the environment in 2011, and appointed an independent expert (Professor John H. Knox) to articulate the links between human rights and the environment.
Decades of experience have clarified that the right to a healthy environment includes clean air, safe and sufficient water, sanitation, healthy and sustainable food, a toxic-free environment, a safe climate and healthy ecosystems and biodiversity.
It also includes the rights to environmental information, participation in decision-making and access to justice with effective remedies.
The core group on human rights and the environment (Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia, and Switzerland) declared in September 2020 their intention to put forward a resolution on the recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the Human Rights Council.
In a recent joint statement endorsed by 69 States during the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, the core group on human rights and the environment stated that: “It is our belief that a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of human rights. Therefore the possible recognition of the right at a global level would have numerous important implications on what we leave to our future generations.”
Further, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, called for the promotion of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as he launched a Call to Action for Human Rights.
The High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has said that: “It is time for global recognition of the human right to a healthy environment – recognition that can lead to stronger policies, at all levels, to protect our planet and our children. The right to a healthy environment is grounded in measures to ensure a safe and stable climate; a toxic-free environment; clean air and water; and safe and nutritious food. It encompasses the right to an education with respect for nature; to participation; to information; and to access to justice...”
In a recent joint statement, 15 UN agencies stated that “ We have come together under the UN Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights, through the inspiration provided by the Council, and in response to the urgent call for action from all corners of the world to declare that the time for global recognition, implementation, and protection of the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is now.”
More than 1,100 civil society, child, youth and indigenous peoples’ organizations have united to call upon Member States to recognize the right to a healthy environment as soon as possible.
We, as human rights experts, urge States to take this opportunity in the face of the global environmental crisis to support the adoption of key UN resolutions recognizing that everyone has the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment both at the Human Rights Council and at the United Nations General Assembly.
Similar resolutions adopted by the UN in 2010 and in 2016 to recognize the rights to water and sanitation have served as a catalyst for constitutional recognition of these rights, stronger laws and increased resources to deliver these essential services. Recognition of the right to a healthy environment through UN resolutions is expected to produce similar benefits.
In a world where the global environmental crisis causes more than nine million premature deaths every year and threatens the health and dignity of billions of people, the UN can make a difference by recognizing that everyone, everywhere, has the right to live in a healthy environment. The time for the global recognition and action is now.
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