New Delhi: Things are bad, and they’re showing no signs of turning for the better. Sea level rise, ice loss and extreme weather events increased from 2015-19, with heatwaves emerging as the deadliest global hazard, as per the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The report, released as part of a high-level synthesis report from leading scientific institutions United in Science under the umbrella of the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Summit 2019, found that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have increased to record levels, locking in the warming for future generations.
“Climate change causes and impacts are increasing rather than slowing down,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, who is co-chair of the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Summit.
In India, the influence of climate change, unless abated by a global response are likely to be catastrophic. In December 2018, the government told the Lok Sabha that Mumbai, and other west coast stretches such as Khambar and Kutch, parts of Konkan and south Kerala were “most vulnerable” to sea level rise.
It had also noted that the deltas of Ganga, Krishna, Godavari, Cauvery and Mahandi on the east coast were “already threatened, along with irrigated land and a number of urban settlements that are situated in them.”
The report on the Global Climate in 2015-19 noted that global average temperatures had increased by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial period, and by 0.2°C compared to 2011-2015. The report on greenhouse gas concentrations found that the 2015-19 period saw an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, along with key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to “new records, with CO2 growth rates nearly 20% higher than the previous five years,” the WMO said, in a statement.
Sea level rise
The five-year-period saw an increase of 5 mm per year, compared to 4 mm per year in the decade from 2007-16. The WMO noted that the contribution of land ice melt from the world glaciers and the ice sheets has increased over time and now dominate the sea level budget, rather than thermal expansion.
From 2015-18, the average Arctic’s average September minimum (summer) sea-ice was found to be well below the 1980-2010 average, as was the “as was the average winter sea-ice extent,” the WMO noted, adding that the four lowest records for winter occurred during this period.
A similar situation unfolded at the Antarctic, with summer and winter sea-ice values being found to be reaching its lowest and second lowest extent in 2017-18. “The amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold, from 40 Gt per year in 1979-1990 to 252 Gt per year in 2009-2017,” it added adding that the Greenland ice sheet has also been losing rapidly.
Ocean heat and acidity
With more than 90 percent of excess heat due to climate change stored in oceans, 2018 had “the largest ocean heat content values on record measured over the upper 700 meters, with 2017 ranking second and 2015 third.”
“Sea level rise has accelerated and we are concerned that an abrupt decline in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will exacerbate future rise. As we have seen this year with tragic effect in the Bahamas and
Mozambique, sea level rise and intense tropical storms led to humanitarian and economic catastrophes,” he said.
The 2015-19 period saw heat waves emerging as “the deadliest meteorological hazard in the 2015-2019 period” and the WMO added that “almost every study of a significant heatwave since 2015 has found the hallmark of climate change, according to the report.” Moreover, the WMO added drought, storms, flooding and wildfires had also caused immense damage.
“According to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, over the period 2015 to 2017, 62 of the 77 events reported show a significant anthropogenic influence on the event’s occurrence, including almost every study of a significant heatwave,” it added.