Gloomy scenario at COP22: 2015 warmest year, trend to continue

Marrakech, Nov 8 (IANS) Projecting a gloomy picture of the global climate change trends, the World Metrological Organisation (WMO) informed the COP22 that while the 2015 was the warmest year so far, 2016 is on track of being even warmer.

These alarming trends have resulted in increased “extreme events” globally by ten times. This means that catastrophic events such as cyclones, heatwaves, floods and droughts have become frequent at 10 year cycle rather than 100 year cycles.

Informing the Parties, non-Parties (of the COP) and the members of scientific community here, WMO official Omar Baddour presented findings of a report — Global Climate in 2011-2015 — at a COP22 discussion, Earth Information Day. The detailed report for 2016 trends would be released here on November 14 at the high-level delegation meeting of the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP22.

“The period 2011-2015 was the warmest five-year period on record globally with 2015 the warmest year on record, the first year in which global temperatures were more than 1 degreesmC above the pre-industrial average,” Baddour said.

He said that the impact of El Niño on global temperatures is typically stronger in the second year of the event (2016) than in the first. El-Nino is a climatic phenomenon which is a cycle of warm and cold temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that also impacts the monsoon.

“The primary impact of the 2015-2016 El Niño on annual global temperatures is expected to be in 2016 rather than 2015,” the report said at the discussion, which featured speakers from the heads of UN and international science organizations.

The report further said that in 2015, average carbon dioxide (CO2) levels reached 400 parts per million (ppm) globally.

“This year, 2016, will be the first year in which CO2 at the Mauna Loa Observatory remains above 400 ppm all year, and for many generations to come,” report said.

Pointing out the socio-economic loss due to extreme events, Baddour said that over 4,100 deaths were attributed to heat wave in India and Pakistan in 2015, about 2,5000 people died of draught and famine in west Africa between 2011-12, over 7,000 people died in the Philippines, while Hurrican Sandy led to an economic loss of $67 billion in the US.

The WHO report came as a major challenge ahead of the major goal of the landmark Paris climate change agreement (COP21), that aims at keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It further warned that the global ocean temperatures and sea-leave rise is at unprecedented levels, concentration of long lived greenhouse gases continues to increase and mountain glaciers also continued their decline in the period 2011-2015 at alarming levels.

According to the 2015 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, approximately 44 per cent of the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by human activity from 2004 to 2015 remained in the atmosphere, with the remaining 56 per cent removed by oceans and the terrestrial biosphere

.

“Globally averaged sea-surface temperatures for 2015 were the highest on record for a calendar year. Sea-surface temperatures for the period were above average in most of the world. Areas where 2011-2015 was the warmest five-year period on record include most of the South Indian Oce”n,” WTO cautioned.

The widespread melting of ice, except in the Southern Ocean, remains another big concern for COP22 to deal with.

Mountain glaciers also continued their decline. Mean losses from the reference glaciers of between 600 and 1 200 mm of water every year between 2011 and 2015, a rate of loss which is typical for the post-2000 period.

(Kushagra Dixit is in Marrakech at the invitation of TERI. He can be reached at kushagra.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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