The findings by the World Meteorologic Organization are another indication of how far off track the planet is in meeting its target to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since the dawn of the industrial revolution.
That was the target in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, a level that scientists identify as one where the worst impacts on the environment could be avoided. While a fluctuation of that level hardly registers during the course of a day, when applied to the climate it would mark the biggest shift in temperatures since the last ice age ended some 10,000 years ago.
“If we wanted to reach a 1.5 degree increase we would need to bend emissions and at the moment countries haven’t been following on their Paris pledges,” WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas told reporters in Madrid, where envoys from almost 200 countries were attending a two-week United Nations conference on the issue.
Average temperatures from January to October this year were already 1.1 degrees above the pre-industrial period, the WMO said.
This year will probably be the second or third warmest year for global temperatures on record, U.K. Met Office and University of East Anglia scientists said on Tuesday. They blamed human influence as the main contributor to the warming conditions over the past 170 years.
Signatories to the Paris Agreement pledged to implement measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But there are few indications that countries have fulfilled their promises, and no signs of improvement of the state of the atmosphere, Taalas said.
The past five years and the past decade were almost certainly the hottest on record, according to the latest WMO study. While 2016 was the warmest year on record, 2019 will end up being the second or third warmest. Emissions show no signs of slowing either and, on the contrary, they kept rising to record levels this year.
“The numbers on emissions are somewhat alarming,” Taalas said, adding that the world is on track for the highest greenhouse gas concentrations since the early 1980s.
Extreme weather events such as floods, forest fires, droughts, ice melting and rising sea levels were also extraordinary. Ocean warming is particularly concerning as it contributes to heatwaves on land, according to the WMO. As many as 38% of marine heatwaves this year were classified as strong.
Fires in South America and in eastern Siberia, drought in Australia, South Africa and southern Europe, along with cold episodes in North America and melting in the Arctic have all posted multi-year records.
“Once again in 2019, weather and climate related risks hit hard,” Taalas said. “Heatwaves and floods which used to be ‘once in a century events’ are becoming more regular occurrences.”
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