Global Economy

Act now or temperatures will rise 3-5 degrees, scientists warn leaders

MADRID: Scientists at the World Meteorological Organisation warn that the world is nowhere near meeting the Paris Agreement target of keeping temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Instead, the projections show that global temperatures are on track to increase by 3 to 5 degrees C.

“If we do not take urgent climate action now then we ae heading for a temperature increase of more than 3 degrees C by the end of the century,” said WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas.

This steady increase in temperature that manifests as climate variability and rising incidence of extreme weather events is taking a toll on human health and food production capacities. As a result, after nearly a decade global hunger is seeing an increase and displacement of people from their homes is on the rise, scientists said.

But slowing down global warming will require countries to do much more than they are currently doing to address climate change. “If we want to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals then we should bend the carbon emissions curve in the next 15 years, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” Taalas said.

That countries have not stepped up with the required level of effort to slow down warming is evident from the fact that the five-year period from 2015 to 2019 were the warmest on record.

The global average temperature in 2019 (January to October) was about 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level—putting it on track to be the second or third warmest year on record. As of now, 2016 is the warmest year on record.

The ten-year period from 2010 to 2019 has been “a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice, and record sea levels”— the decade is the warmest ten-year period on record. “On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and ‘abnormal’ weather,” Taalas said.

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 from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia, Taalas said.

Impacts of rising temperatures are taking a toll on human health and food production. In 2018, a record 220 million more heatwave exposures by vulnerable persons over the age of 65 occurred, compared with the average for the baseline of 1986-2005.

Climate variability and extreme weather events are among the key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe crises. After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again – over 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018. Among 33 countries affected by food crises in 2018, climate variability and weather extremes were a compounding driver together with economic shocks and conflict in 26 countries and the leading driver in 12 of the 26.

More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019, seven million being triggered by hazard events.

(The reporter travelled to Madrid for COP25 at the invitation of Global Editors Network, a non-profit non-governmental association committed to sustainable journalism)


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