Underlying trends indicate planet is steadily heating says World Meteorological Organisation chief Michel Jarraud
Last year was the among the top ten warmest on record, further evidence of a “undeniable” underlying warming trend as record high temperatures were recorded in Australia and the US, said the UN-run World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in a report today.
The WMO said 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record, as the global land and ocean surface temperature was 0.50°C (0.90°F) above the 1961–1990 average, adding that the Arctic Ocean was far warmer than usual last year.
“The global temperature for the year 2013 is consistent with the long term warming trend,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
He added: “The rate of warming is not uniform but the underlying trend is undeniable. Given the record amounts of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, global temperatures will continue to rise for generations to come,” said Mr Jarraud.
Without big cuts to the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere, runaway climate change could lead to widespread drought, famine, and mass migrations impacting hundreds of millions or even billions of people, the UN and other international institutions such as the World Bank have warned.
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The WMO’s report comes against the backdrop of claims last year by climate sceptics that temperature data suggested a pause in global warming from 1998 onwards.
However scientists who accept that manmade greenhouse emissions are changing the world’s climate have explained away the apparent anomaly by pointing to the extra amounts of heat that deep oceans are soaking up.
“More than 90 percent of the excess heat being caused by human activities is being absorbed by the ocean,” the WMO statement said.
The International Panel on Climate Change warned last year that warming oceans are likely to raise sea levels, potentially causing huge economic damage and loss of life to coastal populations in future decades.
“Our action – or inaction – to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases will shape the state of our planet for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” said Mr Jarraud.
Meanwhile marine experts warn that fish stocks that are an important food source for billions of people could collapse because of rapidly warming oceans.
The UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is making a strong push this year for countries to commit to deep cuts in carbon emissions from 2020 and agree a global deal in Paris at the end of 2015.
Some industries and politicians that oppose tough targets in a new climate treaty have argued that the pace of global warming may have been exaggerated, or that extreme temperatures are the result of natural variations in the world’s weather patterns.
US President Barack Obama in his annual State of the Union address last week refrained from linking recent weird weather such as Janaury’s ‘Polar Vortex’ to climate change, but chose to remind sceptics that climate change is a “fact”.