GENEVA (AN) — Signs of global warming are everywhere, the World Meteorological Organization reported on Tuesday, in a global assessment that finds the world officially crossed the halfway point to a major climate crisis benchmark.
The U.N. weather agency's report on increasing land and ocean heat, accelerating sea level rise and melting ice confirmed 2019 ended with global average temperatures that were 1.1 degrees Celsius above estimated pre-industrial levels, second only to the record set in 2016 when a strong El Niño event contributed to an increased global mean temperature atop the overall warming trend.
That is more than halfway to the 2015 Paris Agreement's goal that almost 200 nations adopted to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C. above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees C. if possible. WMO's "State of the Global Climate in 2019" report also documents widespread impacts on development, health, migration and displacement, food security and land and marine ecosystems.
“We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5 degrees C. or 2 degrees C. targets that the Paris Agreement calls for,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time,” he said. “Time is fast running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption and protect our societies from the inevitable impacts to come.”
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the warming will continue as long as greenhouse gas levels continue to increase.
He said changes in rainfall distribution had a major impact on some countries, and sea level rise from thermal expansion of sea water, plus melting of the largest glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, are exposing coastal areas and islands to a greater risk of flooding.
More than 90% of the energy from global warming goes into the ocean, altering currents and indirectly changing storm tracks and melting floating ice shelves, according to WMO. Warmer oceans cause acidification and deoxygenation, altering marine ecosystems.
“We just had the warmest January on record. Winter was unseasonably mild in many parts of the northern hemisphere. Smoke and pollutants from damaging fires in Australia circumnavigated the globe, causing a spike in CO2 emissions," said Taalas.
"Reported record temperatures in Antarctica were accompanied by large-scale ice melt," he said, "and the fracturing of a glacier which will have repercussions for sea level rise."