The worst effects of global warming are still to come, but some have certainly arrived and are getting stronger each year. Over the 25 years the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has produced its annual State of the Global Climate reports, things have got noticeably worse.
“Since the Statement was first published, climate science has achieved an unprecedented degree of robustness, providing authoritative evidence of global temperature increase and associated features,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a media statement.
Although most of the key findings of the newly released 2018 Statement were already known to anyone paying attention, it is very obvious that group does not include most of the people with the greatest power to slow the damage.
The Statement notes each of the last four years has been hotter than any year beforehand. The only reason 2018 air temperatures did not match the peak 2016 was that there was no El Niño effect last year. When that returns, further records are almost inevitable. Meanwhile, the 2018 average temperature of the top 700 meters (2,300 feet) of the oceans was the highest since 1955 when widespread monitoring began.
In addition, sea levels were 3.7 millimeters (0.15 inches) higher than in 2017, accelerating the average 3.1mm rise from 1993-2017. The oceans continued to become less alkaline, impairing the capacity of corals to recover from damage or establish new reefs. Arctic sea ice started the year with near record lows, but recovered fractionally to be the sixth lowest on record when the September minimum came around. Antarctic sea ice, the decline of which has been less noticeable than its northern counterpart, was also one of the lowest ever recorded.
Final results are not in for global glacier movements, but a sample analyzed saw an overall loss of ice mass for the 31st year in a row.
The social impact of all this is enormous. Heatwaves are longer and 125 million more people experience them today than at the start of this century. By September 2018, 2 million people – more than 10 percent of all internally displaced persons – had been forced to leave their homes by floods or drought. World hunger, which declined for decades thanks to improved agriculture and food transportation has stabilized, and may even have started rising again.
With major flooding events occurring right now on three continents, 2019 is certainly offering no relief. Taalas used the opportunity to highlight the worst of these disasters. “[Cyclone] Idai made landfall over the city of Beira: a rapidly growing, low-lying city on a coastline vulnerable to storm surges and already facing the consequences of sea level rise. Idai’s victims personify why we need the global agenda on sustainable development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction,” he said. The UN believes Cyclone Idai may be the Southern Hemisphere's worst natural disaster ever.