Climate Change

Earth’s climate worsened in 2019: WMO report

The decade between 2010-2019 was also the hottest

Published: Wednesday 11 March 2020

Earth's climate deteriorated sharply in 2019, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The WMO’s annual Statement on the State of the Global Climate, 2019 — released on March 10, 2020 — stated accelerating land and ocean heat, a rise in sea level and rapidly melting ice were to blame for the increase in global temperature.

2019 was the second-warmest year on instrumental temperature record with the annual average temperature last year at 1.1 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels, according to the report.

Although 2016 was warmer, temperature increased because of El-Nino, a large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction.

The decade between 2010-2019 was also the hottest, with each decade since 1980 being hotter than the previous one, according to the report.

“We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Celsius targets that the Paris Agreement called for,” said United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a foreword to the report.

Greenhouse gas emissions also rose, according to the report.

In 2018, carbon dioxide touched 407.8±0.1 parts per million, methane (CH4) touched 1869±2 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide (N2O) breached 331.1±0.1 ppb.

The WMO said emissions increased by 0.6 per cent in 2019.

Excess heat from global warming is absorbed by the oceans. In 2019, warming reached 2 kilometres below ocean surfaces, beating a record set in 2018.

Nearly two months of unusually high temperatures were recorded in the oceans last year, while 84 per cent of oceans faced at least one marine heatwave, according to the report.

As a result of the oceans warming up, a thermal expansion of its waters led to a rise in sea level by almost 30 per cent, the report stated. This rise in sea level was the highest last year.

Another consequence of the ocean heating up was ocean acidification and deoxygenation. The imbalance of pH values as a result, affected marine ecosystems.

The ability of organisms like mussels, crustaceans and corals to calcify, affected their growth and reproduction.

The melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica contributed to the rise in sea level.

The Greenland ice sheet lost about 329 giga-tonnes of ice and recorded the seventh lowest ice mass on record.

Extreme heat conditions took an increasing toll on human health as well, with over 1,462 killed across the world, according to the report.

Record-breaking temperatures were recorded in Australia, Europe, India and Japan.

The heatwave in Japan led to 100 deaths and 18,000 being hospitalised, while 20,000 emergency admissions were reported from heat-related maladies in France. It also recorded an all-time high temperature of 46 degrees Celsius in 2019.

Hunger and food shortage was one of the biggest fallouts of climate change.

An earlier aim to achieve the ‘Zero Hunger’ target chalked out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was unlikely to be met.

Over 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018.

Another problem that complicated the issue of food security were locust attacks. Locusts multiplied because of unusual dryness in March and much of April, last year, followed by unusually heavy rainfall and floods in October-December.

Nearly 22.5 million people in the Horn of Africa (6.7 million in Ethiopia, 3.1 million in Kenya, 2.1 million in Somalia, 4.5 million in South Sudan, 5.8 million in the Sudan) were critically food-insecure because of locust attacks.

These attacks were the worst in 25 years in Ethiopia, while Kenya experienced the worst attacks in the past seven decades.

Floods killed over 2,200 in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar during the monsoon season which started late but finished with rainfall above the long term average.

The 12-month rainfall average of the United States was 962 mm, the highest on record. Losses because of flooding were estimated at over $20 billion in the US.

Heavy rain caused losses of about $2.5 billion in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Iran and drought-prone regions in east Africa experienced heavy flooding between October and early November last year.

More than 22 million people were displaced because of hydro-meteorological events like cyclones and floods.

Wildfires raged through higher latitude regions, including Siberia (Russian Federation), Alaska (US) and in some parts of the Arctic, where such occurrences were extremely rare.

Australia experienced a severe fire season in the latter half of 2019, with repeated outbreaks continuing on to the next year, according to the report.

In 2020, 33 people died and over 2,000 properties were lost because of wildfires. About 7 million hectares of land were burnt in New South Wales and Victoria.

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