A new report prepared by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and a network of partners analyse a list of Global Climate Indicators that evidences the on-going climate change, confirming 2019 as the second warmest year on record. On the second part of the report it is documented the impact of climate change on human health, food security, population displacements and on land and marine ecosystems.
How is the WMO depicting climate change?
The WMO launched the Statement on the State of the Global Climate as a clear call to action for all the policymakers to intervene against climate change. National agencies, international experts and scientific institutions all agree on the need for a change: 2019 was confirmed in fact as the second warmest year on record. This is not just an extraordinary event, several heat records have been broken in recent years and decades: as the WMO points out 2015-2019 are the five warmest years on record, 2010-2019 the warmest decade on record and since the 1980s each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding one (up to 1850). The UN chief António Guterres, writing in the foreword to the report, warned that the world is currently “way off track meeting either the 1,5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for”, referring to the commitment made by the international community in 2015, to keep global average temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
What are the Global Climate Indicators and what do they show?
The WMO report documents the physical signs of climate change, described as Global Climate Indicators:
1. Temperatures are rising decades over decades since 1850. The global mean temperature for 2019 was 1,1±0,1 °C above pre-industrial levels.
2. Greenhouse gases and ozone levels are increasing, with global atmospheric mole fractions of greenhouse gases reaching record levels in 2018 with carbon dioxide (CO2) at 407,8±0,1 parts per million (ppm), methane (CH4) at 1869±2 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide (N2O) at 331,1±0,1 ppb.
3. Oceans response to the two previous indicators has been an increased ocean heat, rising sea levels, altering of ocean currents, melting floating ice shelves, and dramatic changes in marine ecosystems.
4. Cryosphere includes solid precipitation, snow cover, sea ice, lake and river ice, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, permafrost and seasonally-frozen ground.
How does climate change impact our lives?
Interestingly, the WMO report does not stop at the Global Climate Indicators, but guides the reader through the knock-on effects of climate change on socio-economic development, human health, migration and displacement, food security, land and marine ecosystems.
Health impacts have been especially clear in 2019, when record-setting high temperatures in Australia, India, Japan, and Europe negatively affected health and well-being: heat wave events resulted, for example, in over 100 deaths and an additional 18000 hospitalisations in Japan, while in France over 20000 emergency room were recorded for heat-related illnesses between June and mid-September.
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: in 2018 over 820 million people suffered from hunger and about 33 countries were affected by food crises. Huge efforts are required to meet the Zero Hunger target of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
During the first half of 2019 more than 6,7 million new internal disaster displacements were recorded, triggered by hydrometeorological events such as Cyclone Idai in Southeast Africa, Cyclone Fani in South Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, and flooding in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia.