In 2019 several meteorological records were broken. Extreme heat swept through large parts of Europe, India and elsewhere last summer. Nor were these heatwaves mere anomalies, according to the World Meterological Organization.
According to the WMO, , a United Nations agency, this decade has been the hottest on record so far. In 2019 alone temperatures have been 1.1 degrees Celsius above the average in the pre-industrial age between 1850-1900 and this year has been among the two or three warmest ever recoded.
“The year 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities,” the WMO notes. “Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record. 2019 is on course to be the second or third warmest year on record.”
Scientific consensus attributes the relentless rise in global temperatures to the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere owing to the burning of fossil fuels. Last year concentrations of CO2 reached a record level of 407.8 parts per million. This year they have climbed even higher and the United Nations has warned that in coming years yet more massive amounts of fossil fuels will be burned, which will undermine global climate mitigation efforts.
“CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for centuries and the ocean for even longer, thus locking in climate change. Sea level rise has accelerated since the start of satellite measurements in 1993 because of the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica,” the WMO says.
“The ocean, which acts as a buffer by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, is paying a heavy price. Ocean heat is at record levels and there have been widespread marine heatwaves. Sea water is 26 percent more acidic than at the start of the industrial era,” the UN agency adds.
“Vital marine ecosystems are being degraded. The daily Arctic sea-ice extent minimum in September 2019 was the second lowest in the satellite record and October has seen further record low extents. In Antarctica, 2019 saw record low ice extents in some months,” it elucidates.
There’s pressing need for action on global emissions, stresses WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human wellbeing. We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target,” he says.
“On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and ‘abnormal’ weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate related risks hit hard. Heatwaves and floods which used to be ‘once in a century’ events are becoming more regular occurrences. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia,” Taalas explained.
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