Friday, December 27, 2019

Predictable and Rare Climate Impacts in 2019

This year there were a slew of predictable climate related events. There were also some rare global warming impacts including massive volumes of ice melt in Greenland and tropical cyclones that intensified at one of the fastest rates ever observed.

According to the IPCC ice is melting and sea levels are rising at an accelerated rate.  A quick review of temperature records tell us what we need to know. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade and the most recent decade is the hottest on record. Driven by deadly heat waves and drought we are seeing increases in the intensity, duration and size of wildfires.

Terrestrial heat records are not our only concern. We have broken ocean heat records that may be the climate canary in the marine coalmine. We also need to appreciate the gravity of Arctic heatwaves and unprecedented Arctic wildfires which emitted 50 megatons of carbon dioxide in June.

The World Meteorological Organization's annual "State of the Global Climate" reported a number of climate impacts in 2019. 
"Once again in 2019, weather and climate related risks hit hard. Heatwaves and floods which used to be “once in a century" events are becoming more regular occurrences...Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, adding, "If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3 degrees C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human well being."
Climate refugees are also a significant and growing problem. The WMO report claims that up to 22 million people worldwide could be displaced by extreme weather in 2019. Drought and floods have caused crop failures that have reversed the trend line for global hunger. For the first time in a decade hunger is now increasing.

"One of the main impacts of climate change is more erratic rainfall patterns. This poses a threat to crop yields and, combined with population increase, will mean considerable food security challenges for vulnerable countries in the future," Talaas explained.

In the face of all of these climate impacts we are moving in the wrong direction. Atmospheric greenhouse gases hit an all time high last year and countries are not living up to their emission reduction commitments.  We will need to see consorted action in 2020 if we are to address the climate crisis before we run out of time. 

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