The latest annual State of the Climate report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reveals that 2019 saw the global average temperature of the planet reach 1.1°C (1.98°F) higher than pre-industrial levels, meaning we are way off track to meeting the 1.5°C or 2°C targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement. The report once again calls for action from governments to take the climate crisis seriously.
The report shows the impact of weather and climate events on socio-economic development, human health, migration and displacement, food security, and land and marine ecosystems over the last few years. It stresses that 2015 to 2019 were the hottest five years on record, and 2010-2019 was the hottest decade on record, continuing the trend started in the 1980s that has seen each new decade becomes warmer than the previous one.
“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. Reported record temperatures in Antarctica were accompanied by large-scale ice melt and the fracturing of a glacier, which will have repercussions for sea-level rise,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
“Given that greenhouse gas levels continue to increase, the warming will continue. A recent decadal forecast indicates that a new annual global temperature record is likely in the next five years. It is a matter of time.”
The data shows that greenhouse gases have broken new records year after year, and preliminary data from 2019 suggest that it likely continued to increase last year. Eighty-four percent of the ocean has experienced at least one marine heatwave. The ocean has so far cushioned the impact of climate change by absorbing 23 percent of the annual emission of CO2 over the last decade.
“We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the report’s foreword. “This report outlines the latest science and illustrates the urgency for far-reaching climate action. It brings together data from across the fields of climate science and lists the potential future impacts of climate change – from health and economic consequences to decreased food security and increased displacement.”
The report stresses that the effects of the climate crisis have been known for a while. Over 820 million people worldwide went hungry in 2018, with climate-related droughts and famine reversing the steady decline in world hunger that had been going on for a decade.
Extreme weather events have also become more common and they are here to stay. From deadly heatwaves across the globe, floodings, tropical cyclones, and wildfires, millions of people have been displaced and thousands of people have died.
The message is the same as countless other climate crisis reports: the time for action is now.