Geneva: The past decade has been the hottest on record, the United Nations (UN) said Wednesday, warning that the higher temperatures were expected to fuel numerous extreme weather events in 2020 and beyond.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which based its findings on analysis of leading international datasets, said it also confirmed data released by the European Union’s (EU) climate monitor last week showing that last year was the second hottest on record, after 2016.
“The year 2020 has started out where 2019 left off – with high-impact weather and climate-related events,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement, pointing in particular to the devastating bushfires in Australia.
“Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” added Taalas.
The UN agency said that average global temperatures during both the past five-year (2015-2019) and 10-year (2010-2019) periods were the highest ever recorded.
“Since the 1980s each decade has been warmer than the previous one,” the UN agency said in a statement, warning that ‘this trend is expected to continue’.
The UN said last year that man-made greenhouse gas emissions needed to tumble 7.6 per cent each year to 2030 in order to limit temperature rises to 1.5C – the more ambitious cap nations signed up to in the landmark Paris climate deal.
Current pledges to cut emissions put Earth on a path of several degrees warming by the end of the century.
Taalas said Wednesday that since modern records began in 1850, the average global temperature had risen by around 1.1 degrees Celsius, and warned of significant warming in the future.
“On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, we are heading towards a temperature increase of three to five degrees Celsius by the end of the century,” warned Taalas.
WMO also pointed to a new study published this week in ‘Advances in Atmospheric Sciences’ with data showing that ocean heat content was at a record high in 2019. The past five years, and past decade were also the warmest on record in terms of ocean heat content, that study showed.
Since more than 90 per cent of excess heat is stored within the world’s oceans, their heat content is a good way to quantify the rate of global warming, WMO said.
Scientists stressed the urgent need to do more to counter the warming trend.
“If we look at all the impacts around the world that are now occurring as a result of this warming, it is obvious that we are not succeeding in preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” said Bob Ward of the ‘Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science’.