DETROIT - At 10 a.m. Sunday, the World Meteorological Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, released to the world a new update about earth’s warming climate.
The report, titled "United in Science," was provided in advance to me last week out of respect for my international reputation for honestly reporting the scientific truth about climate change without any political bias, which gave me the opportunity to prepare this article for you and have ClickOnDetroit.com post it the moment the press conference began.
"United in Science" was released in conjunction with U.N. Climate Action Summit 2019. Climate change is a very important focus of the U.N. In fact, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote in his forward to the report that “climate change is the defining challenge of our time.”
You can read key messages from the report below.
The global climate in 2015-2019
Average global temperature for 2015-2019 is on track to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1 C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2 C warmer than 2011-2015.
Furthermore, observations show that global mean sea level rise is accelerating, along with an overall increase of 26% in ocean acidity since the beginning of the industrial era.
Most people understand that our oceans are warming, but don’t know that the oceans absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That CO2 added to the ocean increases its acidity, which has important ramifications to sea life.
Greenhouse gas concentrations
Earth’s atmosphere acts like a greenhouse: Certain gases in the air “trap” heat, which has historically kept our planet warm enough to sustain life as we know it.
But human activity has markedly increased those gases. Current levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are at 146%, 257% and 122% of preindustrial levels (pre-1750), respectively.
In short, humans have changed the composition of our planet’s atmosphere, causing an unnatural warming of its climate over the past century.
Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown at a rate of 1.6% per year from 2008 to 2017, reaching a record high of 53.5 gigatons of CO2 in 2017, including emissions from land-use change, and are not estimated to peak by 2030, let alone by 2020.
Current emissions reduction efforts by nations would lead to a global mean temperature rise between 2.9 C and 3.4 C.
So there is an emissions gap that needs to be bridged through greater emissions reduction efforts in order to ensure that the global warming stays below the target of 2 C and 1.5 C.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 and 2019 Special Reports
Climate change is already affecting people, ecosystems and livelihoods all around the world.
Limiting warming to 1.5 ºC is not physically impossible but would require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society.
There are clear benefits to keeping warming to 1.5 C compared to 2 C or higher. Every bit of warming matters. For example, limiting warming to 1.5 C relative to 2 C can avoid the inundation of lands currently home to about 5 million people, including 60,000 people currently residing in Small Island Developing States.
Limiting warming to 1.5 C can go hand in hand with reaching other world goals, such as achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty.
New research shows that the current carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is unprecedented over the past 3 million years and that global temperature never exceeded the preindustrial value by more than 2 C during that time. A combination of Earth’s orbital cycles in constant interplay with biogeochemical processes, such as greenhouse gas regulation on land and in the ocean, accounted for the long-term stability during that time, and there is new understanding that these interactions are changing.
The effect of anthropogenic, meaning human-caused, climate change on the increasing frequency and/or intensity of extreme events is becoming more compelling in a number of case studies.
For example, science has improved our understanding of how interconnections among ocean currents, ice sheets and heat exchange in the atmosphere and land play a major role in accelerating warming and extreme weather events.
Recent examples include confirmation that a slowdown of the jet stream – fast-moving winds in the upper atmosphere - was directly related to record-breaking heat waves across North America, Europe and Asia in 2018 and 2019, and that a series of extreme rainfall events were connected, despite being thousands of miles apart, and were also linked to the jet stream pattern.
Tipping points in the earth system refer to thresholds that, if crossed, lead to far-reaching and in some cases, abrupt and/or irreversible changes.
With continued warming, systems can reach tipping points where they rapidly collapse or a major, largely unstoppable transformation is initiated.
Scientists have studied plausible pathways to a “Hothouse Earth” scenario in which interacting tipping points could potentially lead to a cascading effect in which earth’s temperature heats up to a catastrophic 4 C to 5 C. Another study estimates that unmitigated emissions could reverse a multimillion-year cooling trend in less than two centuries.
Since cities consume about 78% of the world’s energy and produce more than 60% of all CO2 emissions, their actions are central to minimizing the rise in global mean temperature. In particular, shifts towards cleaner energies will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but will also reduce localized air pollution and heat island effects within cities.
The cities of the world are thus key players for stepping up climate action. Commitments have been made by more than 9,000 cities in 128 countries that are home to 16% of the global population.
To read the report visit the World Meteorological Organization's website here.
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