Extreme Weather Now Becoming ‘the New Normal’


Human Wrongs Watch

Observing the World Meteorological Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 23 March 2016 warned that extreme weather events are becoming “the new normal” and bold climate action is needed to “face the future now.”

Martin Delingon’s bathes near his house on July 13, 2014, that was among those in the Philippines crushed by this ship that was swept ashore by typhoon Haiyan’s storm surge. Photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank | Source: UN News Centre

“Only by responding decisively to the climate challenge can we avoid the worst impacts of climate change and lay the foundations of a world of peace, prosperity and opportunity for all,” the UN chief said in a message on the Day.

The window of opportunity for limiting global temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius – the threshold set under the Paris Agreement adopted last December – is narrow and rapidly shrinking, Ban warned, noting that the effects of a warming planet will be felt by all, including rising sea levels, and extreme weather events, which are becoming “the new normal.”

Next month, on 22 April, world leaders will gather in New York to sign the Paris Agreement. “But, even before the Agreement comes into force, every country, every business and every citizen has a role to play in combating climate change and building a sustainable future for this and future generations,” he said.

World Meteorological Day 2016. Credit: WMO

 

‘Hotter, drier, wetter: face the future’

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said in his message that today the Earth is already one degree Celsius hotter than at the start of the twentieth century, indicative of this year’s theme of the Day: ‘Hotter, drier, wetter: face the future.’

“Climate change is affecting our natural and human environment. Our emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, and the temperature of the lower atmosphere and the ocean is increasing, he said, adding: “The international community has unanimously recognized the need for bold action.”

Citing the Paris Agreement to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees,” he stressed that WMO and the national meteorological and hydrological services are playing an essential role in building climate-resilient societies.

Health risks related to heat can be reduced through multi-hazard early warning systems that provide timely alerts to decision-makers, health services and the general public, he said, also underscoring the need to improve access to scientific knowledge and share best practices for coping with drought.

The WMO community will continue to support countries in pursuing sustainable development and tackling climate change by providing the best possible science and operational services for weather, climate, hydrology, oceans and the environment.

According to the WMO Statement on the Status of the Climate in 2015, the year made history, with shattered temperature records, intense heatwaves, exceptional rainfall, devastating drought and unusual tropical cyclone activity.

“Our planet is sending a powerful message to world leaders to sign and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and cut greenhouse gases now before we pass the point of no return,” Taalas said earlier this week in a press release, emphasizing that the worst-case scenarios can be averted by taking urgent and far-reaching measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions. (Source: UN).

Urgent measures needed to cut carbon emissions

The Earth is already one degree Celsius hotter than at the start of the 20th century, halfway to the critical two-degree threshold, and national climate change plans adopted so far may not be enough to avoid a three-degree temperature rise, the UN weather agency on 21 March 2016 warned upon the release of its 2015 annual report on the status of the climate.

Starting in 2011, drought-hit northern and eastern Kenya suffered especially from an already poor food security situation, exacerbated by high food and fuel prices. Credit: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN

“Many people now think that the problem is solved since we reached a nice agreement in Paris last year… but the negative side is that we haven’t changed our behaviors,” Taalas, told reporters in Geneva.

He argued that carbon dioxide concentrations in the air would be five times the current level in 500 years if no limits are placed on fossil fuel, meaning that the planet would be seven to eight degrees Celsius warmer at that time.

It would then take up to 100,000 years to restore the normal level, he added, stressing the urgency of substantially cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the coming few decades.

According to the WMO Statement on the Status of the Climate in 2015, the year made history, with shattered temperature records, intense heatwaves, exceptional rainfall, devastating drought and unusual tropical cyclone activity.

“Our planet is sending a powerful message to world leaders to sign and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and cut greenhouse gases now before we pass the point of no return,” Taalas said in a press release, emphasizing that the worst-case scenarios can be averted by taking urgent and far-reaching measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The statement shows that the global average surface temperature in 2015 broke all previous records by a wide margin, at about 0.76 degree Celsius above the 1961-1990 average, because of a powerful El Niño and human-caused global warming. With 93 per cent of excess heat stored in the oceans, ocean heat content down to 2,000 meters also hit a new record.

Record-breaking trend continuing in 2016

The record-breaking trend has continued in 2016. January and February 2016 set yet more new monthly temperature records, with the heat especially pronounced in the high northern latitudes.

Arctic sea ice extent was at a satellite-record low for both months, according to NASA and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Greenhouse gas concentrations crossed the symbolic and significant 400 parts per million threshold.

“The startlingly high temperatures so far in 2016 have sent shockwaves around the climate science community,” said David Carlson, Director of the World Climate Research Programme, which is co-sponsored by WMO. He added that it is premature to determine that 2016 would extend a record-breaking streak.

The WMO Statement was released ahead of World Meteorological Day, on 23 March.

2016 Human Wrongs Watch

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