Published: Fri, March 13, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Climate crisis is accelerating, shows growing impacts, United Nations warns

Climate crisis is accelerating, shows growing impacts, United Nations warns

About 90% of the excess energy accumulating in the climate system due to increased levels of greenhouse gases is stored in the global ocean, the report states.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the launch of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019, at the UN headquarters in NY, on March 10, 2020. The decade of 2010 to 2019 was also the warmest decade on record, continuing a trend where every decade since the 1980s has topped all previous records.

Taalas said at a briefing on the agency's annual State of the Global Climate 2019 report that carbon dioxide has contributed two-thirds of global warming, "and its lifetime is of several hundreds of years - so it's a problem that doesn't go away if you let these concentrations continue".

Antarctica has reported new temperature highs, accompanied by large-scale ice melt and a fracturing glacier which will have "repercussions for sea level rise", WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said. For that to change, much more ambitious climate plans (and action) is needed from countries around the world.

"We have no time to lose if we are to avert climate catastrophe", Guterres emphasized.

The WMO said its report provided authoritative information for policymakers on the need for climate action and showed the impacts of extreme weather.

Greenhouse gas emissions continued to grow in 2019, leading to increased ocean heat, and such phenomena as rising sea levels, the altering of ocean currents, melting floating ice shelves, and dramatic changes in marine ecosystems. "It is a matter of time".

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"This is exposing coastal areas and islands to a greater risk of flooding and the submersion of low-lying areas".

In the coming months, the U.N. will be very actively engaging Western Europe nations, the U.S., Canada, China, India, Russia and Japan "in order to have as many as possible, ideally all of them, committed to carbon neutrality in 2050", the secretary-general said.

There were two major heatwaves in Europe, in June and July, with new national temperature records set in the United Kingdom, where the thermometer hit 38.7C, as well as in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. "After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again - over 820 million suffered from hunger in 2018, the latest global data available", the report says.

Australia's 2018-2019 summer was the hottest ever recorded, while heat records were also broken in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and Siberia and Alaska saw unusually high levels of fire activity, along with large parts of South East Asia and South America.

Between 2002 and 2016, the Greenland ice sheet lost some 260 Gigatonnes of ice per year, with a peak loss of 458 Gigatonnes in 2011/12.

They can also lead to marine heatwaves, which lasted for almost 2 months and were felt in 84 per cent of the ocean according to WMO data.

Warming ocean temperatures, along with more acidic water and lower oxygen levels, are having an impact on marine wildlife and habitats such as coral, the report said.

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