According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2017 is on target to become one of the warmest years on record, and has been affected by many high-impact events including catastrophic hurricanes, floods, debilitating heatwaves and drought.
Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are also set to reach a new record in 2018, committing the planet to further warming for the next 50 years.
The WMO’s provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate revealed that the average global temperature from January to September 2017 was approximately 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era. As a result of a powerful El Niño, 2016 is likely to remain the warmest year on record, with 2017 and 2015 being second and/or third. 2013-2017 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record.
The WMO statement was released during the United Nations Climate Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, which came to a close on November 17, 2017. It includes information submitted by a wide range of UN agencies on human, socio-economic and environmental impacts of climate change as part of a drive to provide a more comprehensive outlook on the interplay between weather, climate and water and the UN’s global goals.
Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary general, said, “The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long-term warming trend. We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50ºC in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people, and a relentless drought in East Africa.
“Many of these events – and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many – bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities.”
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, said, “These findings underline the rising risks to people, economies and the very fabric of life on Earth if we fail to get on track with the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement.
“There is unprecedented and very welcome momentum among governments, but also cities, states, territories, regions, business and civil society. Bonn 2017 needs to be the launch pad toward the next, higher level of ambition by all nations and all sectors of society as we look to de-risk the future and maximize the opportunities from a fresh, forward-looking and sustainable development path.”
According to the WMO, temperatures may increase between 3°C and 5°C by the end of the century based on current rates. To combat this, the Paris Agreement called on countries to implement initiatives that limit the rise of global temperature to less than 2°C and ideally not exceeding 1.5°C. - November 2017