If you’re a fan of horror stories, the World Meteorological Organisation is not the first place you might think of checking out. But believe me, it is publishing some terrifying stuff.
Every year the WMO publishes a report called “Statement on the State of the Global Climate”. These reports are quite different from those published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the IPCC. The IPCC reports tread so carefully, they almost trip over themselves as they watch where to put their feet. This isn’t really their fault. Their summary reports are airbrushed so thoroughly by their government handlers that even the most alarming observations of the hundreds of scientists who work on the text are weakened to the point where they seem to be little more than mild precautionary advice.
Not so the WMO reports. They lay it out exactly as they see it. For the WMO, it is what it is. The latest report looks clear-eyed at the state of the global climate in 2019. Here ‘s what they found :
- The annual increases in the three main greenhouse gases were larger than the increases in the previous year, and above the 10-year averaged growth rates. In other words, the emissions that drive the changing climate are accelerating.
- As a result, 2019 was very probably the second warmest year on record. Global mean temperatures are already about 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. So we are well on the way to going way past 1.5°C of warming—a threshold that, once exceeded, the IPCC predicts will bring devastating environmental impacts.
- The past five years 2015 – 2019 were the five warmest on record. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding once since 1850.
- Areas of notable warmth in 2019 include large areas of the Arctic, central and eastern Europe, southern Africa, mainland south easts Asia and parts of Australia—where it was the warmest and driest year on record.
- Sea levels continue to rise. Global mean sea levels reached their highest level since the beginning of high precision measurements in 1993. The loss of ice mass from the ice sheets is the main cause of the accelerated rise in global sea level, coupled with the steady increase in the expansion of ocean water caused by warming. We now have marine heat waves on an unprecedented scale.
- The oceans are acidifying as they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—threatening the development of marine organisms such as mussels, crustaceans and coral. Moreover, oxygen in the open and coastal oceans is declining. New studies identify deoxygenation alongside ocean warming and acidification as major threats to ocean ecosystems and human well-being.
- As expected, the cryosphere is in crisis. Arctic sea ice extent continues to decline. Glaciers continue to melt, and the Greenland ice sheet continues to lose mass: losing almost 500 billion tonnes of ice over the period 2018/2019.
- In 2019, there were numerous major heatwaves. In Europe, in June and July, a temperature of 46°C was recorded in southern France, while in Australia the summer was exceptionally hot with January being the hottest month on record. In Israel in July the mercury in the town of Sedom rose to almost 50°C.
- And perhaps most ominously among all the worsening trends: after a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again. Over 820 million, or one in every nine people in the world, suffered from hunger in 2018.
Although the details are alarming, this is the way it’s been since before the turn of the century. The most frightening aspect is that most government’s apparently don’t care. The world continues blithely along this path seemingly dismissive of the disruption and devastation the changing climate is now causing.
Although the shift from coal to natural gas has reduced the emissions of greenhouse gases from the energy sector in several countries, this decline has been more than outpaced by the increasing emissions from other sectors of the global economy—particulary in Asia. So global emissions of greenhouse gases, the primary driver of the changing climate, continue to climb.
Moreover, the pace of global heating is accelerating. The most obvious sign is at the poles. The average annual loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica over the last decade was 475 billion tonnes—six times faster than the 81 billion tonnes lost in the 1990s. The greater loss of mass from the ice sheets is the principal driver of the rising seas. In 2019, the global mean sea level reached its highest value since the beginning of high-precision altimetry records in 1993.
There will be no respite from the increasing destruction caused by the changing climate unless the pace of global emissions slows and eventually stalls. This may in fact happen this year—because of the economic disruption caused by the corona virus. There is a certain irony here. It apparently takes a global pandemic and several thousand deaths before governments take action to protect the welfare and well-being of their populations rather than continue their obsessive quest for ever greater economic growth.
It is very probable that the COVID-19 virus jumped from animals to humans in the so-called wet markets of Asia—where wild animals are trafficked, held in appalling conditions, and finally killed for human consumption.
The savage killing of live animals for food in Asia’s wet markets is only one example of the reckless disregard humans have for the natural environment and the wild animals that struggle to survive on this planet as we mindlessly continue to exploit it regardless of the cost. As one biologist warned about the spreading virus: “This is Mother Nature’s revenge”.
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