This year will be the third hottest year on record, according to a new report released to coincide with a major climate summit in Germany.
World Meteorological Organization’s provisional Statement on the State of the Climate reveals that the mean global temperature for the period January to September 2017 was approximately 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era. As a result of a powerful El Niño, 2016 is likely to remain the warmest year on record, with 2017 and 2015 being second and/or third. 2013-2017 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record.
“The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long-term warming trend,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.
“Many of these events – and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many – bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities,” he said.
Read more about the report on Scimex.org
The preliminary report was released on the first day of the COP23 international climate summit held in Bonn, Germany. A key focus of the meeting will be a review of climate commitments made at the Paris 2015 climate conference and a push for countries to ‘ratchet up’ their efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change which is hosting the Bonn conference, said of the WMO report: “These findings underline the rising risks to people, economies and the very fabric of life on Earth if we fail to get on track with the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement”.
“There is unprecedented and very welcome momentum among governments, but also cities, states, territories, regions, business and civil society. Bonn 2017 needs to be the launch pad towards the next, higher level of ambition by all nations and all sectors of society as we look to de-risk the future and maximize the opportunities from a fresh, forward-looking and sustainable development path.“
NZ Climate experts respond
The Science Media Centre collected expert commentary from New Zealand climate researchers.
Dr Jim Salinger, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Otago comments:
“Huge storms in July brought Oamaru’s wettest day on record (174 mm), the second wettest day to Winchmore (151 mm) and Dunedin’s wettest July day on record (94 mm). Dunedin City has now had two extreme events because of climate change within the last two years where flooding has occurred in South Dunedin. Floods and inundation because of sea level rise is going to increase in coming years. Otago Regional Council shows almost 3000 homes in the suburb of South Dunedin are just 50cm above sea level – which makes this area at most risk in New Zealand.
“And the ‘Long white cloud’ cloaking the Southern Alps continues to shrink. The latest ice volume calculations using NIWA’s end of summer snowline surveys, published in June, show a further decline by March 2016 to a mere 32 cubic kilometres, 60 percent lower than in 1977, and probably a meagre 20 percent of those estimated in the 1890s!
“Dave Cull head of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is quite correct in pushing for action by central government, given the diverse state of individual responses by district, city and regional councils to flooding. This, and efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, will be one of the first tasks that the new parliament will need to address urgently so we can adapt and reduce the impacts of climate change. They will be busy!”
Professor James Renwick, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:
“Recently, the rate of change of warming globally has been really remarkable. We now appear to be well and truly through the 1 degree of warming (compared to pre-industrial) barrier, heading for 2 degrees. What’s really striking is that this year is coming in as probably the second warmest year on record, after the big El Niño-influenced 2016. The fact that we have such warmth this year without an El Niño, and in fact with a slightly cooling La Niña developing in the Tropical Pacific, tells me that the background warming trend (from greenhouse gas increase) is really becoming apparent.
“The main way we experience climate change is through extreme events, and this year has seen extraordinary extremes around the world. From record floods and fires in North America to record monsoon rains in Bangladesh and India, to heatwaves in many parts of the globe, 2017 has already been exceptional.
“Here in New Zealand, we have seen several major flood events, including Edgecumbe in April and the eastern South Island from Dunedin to Christchurch in July. While the analysis has yet to be done, it is very likely that these events have a climate change ‘fingerprint’, as a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, making heavy rain events more frequent. Sea levels continue to rise, and the latest science shows that we may see considerably more than 1 metre this century, with many more metres to come, unless we cap greenhouse gas emissions urgently.
“The Bonn ‘COP23’ meeting is on this week and now is the time for countries to demonstrate action on climate change. To stay below the 2 degree Paris limit, the world economy needs to be carbon-free within 50 years. A huge ask, but the costs of inaction or failure are almost incalculable. Rather than a burden, this is a real opportunity for government and business to lead the way into the green economy.”
United States out in the cold
The United States withdrew from the historic Paris Agreement earlier this year, but the move does not seem to have dampened the sense of urgency at the Bonn conference. As the Guardian reports, it may have even boosted other countries’ commitment to the 2015 pact:
But when President Trump announced the US withdrawal in June – it takes effect in 2020 – the UN’s chief climate negotiator, who delivered the Paris deal, ended up thanking him. “It provoked an unparalleled wave of support for the treaty,” said Christiana Figueres. “He shored up the world’s resolve on climate action, and for that we can all be grateful.”
One COP veteran said: “The mood on the ground is it is going to be OK: the US is not going to be a pain in the arse. They still don’t know what they actually want.” Nazhat Shameem Khan, Fiji’s chief negotiator was even less diplomatic when asked about dealing with the US: “You can have a dialogue [even] with somebody who is an axe murderer.”
Featured image: Stephen Murphy / Flickr.