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Physical & economic impacts of climate change are accelerating: WMO study

29th March 2019 - Author: Matt Sheehan

The physical signs and socio-economic impacts of climate change are accelerating as record greenhouse gas levels drive global temperatures towards increasingly dangerous levels, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Climate ChangeThe WMO’s study on the state of the global climate in 2018 highlighted record sea level rise, as well as exceptionally high land and ocean temperatures over the past four years, with the trend set to continue.

The report observed that nearly 62 million people were affected by natural hazards associated with extreme weather and climate events in 2018.

Flood continued to impact the largest number of people (more than 35 million), according to an analysis of 281 events recorded by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The WMO registered fourteen billion-dollar disasters in the U.S in 2018, including Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which triggered around $49 billion in damages and over 100 deaths.

More than 1600 deaths were also associated with intense heat waves and wildfires in Europe, Japan and the U.S, causing record economic damages of nearly $24 billion in the U.S alone.

Other significant disasters included the flooding in the Indian state of Kerala and Typhoon Mangkhut, which affected more than 2.4 million people and killed at least 134, mainly in the Philippines.

The trend of increasingly frequent and severe natural catastrophes shows no signs of slowing in 2019, the WMO indicated, with Tropical Cyclone Idai already devastating areas of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi this year, and above-normal sea surface and land temperatures predicted globally.

“The data released in this report give cause for great concern,” UN Secretary General António Guterres stated in the report. “The past four years were the warmest on record, with the global average surface temperature in 2018 approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial baseline.”

“These data confirm the urgency of climate action,” he continued. “This was also emphasized by the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C.”

“The IPCC found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require rapid and far reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities and that global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050.”

The report also highlighted how the exposure of the agriculture sector to climate extremes is threatening to reverse gains made in ending malnutrition, with the number of undernourished people increasing to 821 million in 2017, partly due to severe droughts in the previous year.

Additionally, the WMO noted that over 2 million people were displaced due to disasters linked to weather and climate events as of September 2018.

Drought, floods and storms (including hurricanes and cyclones) are the events that led to the most disaster-induced displacements in 2018. In all cases, the displaced populations have protection needs and vulnerabilities, the report stated.

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