UN’s 2050 forecasts aim to drive home climate consequences

The World Meteorological Organization has mocked up weather reports from 2050 to raise awareness of climate change

(Pic: Flickr/Lena Vasiljeva)

(Pic: Flickr/Lena Vasiljeva)

By Ed King

Why do we pack an umbrella when the weather forecast says it will rain, but ignore far more serious long-term climate warnings?

And why do London’s black cab drivers drone on about the capital’s leaden skies, yet rarely mention the risks from rising sea levels?

A disconnect between current and future weather events has long been highlighted as a reason for public apathy when it comes to climate change.

Equally, warnings of global apocalypse can leave many cold, when local problems seem more real and urgent.

It’s an issue the UN seems determined to tackle head on, weeks before heads of state gather in New York for a climate summit hosted by Ban Ki-moon.

Organisers want the meeting to foster an understanding among world leaders on how best to prevent global temperatures rising above a 2C limit agreed in 2009.

But the UN is also conscious that without widespread awareness of the possible consequences of global warming, governments will struggle to implement carbon-cutting policies.

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Its weather forecasting body, the World Meteorological Organization, has commissioned a series of mocked-up weather reports from 2050.

Presenters from countries including Brazil, Japan, Iceland, Zambia and the USA have recorded TV forecasts that will be published in the coming weeks.

A preview video released this week shows forecasters warning that “Miami south beach is underwater” and that a typhoon is heading towards the Philippines.

In another clip a US presenter illustrates how sea levels will rise by a metre, while in Zambia a two-week heatwave hits the high 40s.

The video series is the latest bid by the UN and leading foundations dedicated to tackling climate change to boost the level of awareness within countries.

Last week the World Health Organization convened a special climate and health meeting in Geneva, highlighting the medical impacts of rising temperatures.

And in the lead up to the New York summit on September 23 further analyses on the economic benefits from green growth, and the business risks linked with coal use are expected to be published.

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The WMO’s strategy, backed by the UN Foundation, will likely be accused of unwarranted alarmism by climate sceptics.

But in a statement the UN body said all predictions were based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent fifth assessment report.

“The reported conditions include realistic dangerously hot temperatures, torrential but erratic rains, relentless drought and flooding from tropical cyclones aggravated by higher sea levels,” it said.

In a video message accompanying the WMO series UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called on viewers to “join me” in tackling climate change.

“We can reduce the risks by cutting global greenhouse gas emissions and building low-carbon economies. Let’s work together to make our societies safer and more resilient,” he said.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, currently in Samoa at a meeting of small island states vulnerable to sea level rises, said she hoped the videos could boost national efforts to cut carbon pollution.

“I would like to thank these weathermen and women for volunteering their time and their skill to communicate to millions of people the reality we are all facing by 2050 if climate change if left unaddressed,” she said.

“I am sure their films will inspire everyone of the absolute necessity of a meaningful, universal new agreement in Paris in 2015.”

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