The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has stressed the importance of urgent climate action ahead of the United Nations’ (UN) Climate Action Summit, taking place at the UN headquarters in New York on September 21-23, 2019.
According to the WMO, Earth is set to experience its five warmest years on record from 2015-2019, with increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations contributing to further ice melt, glacier retreat, sea level rise, ocean heat and extreme weather.
“Increasingly, we hear the phrase ‘climate emergency’,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “It is not just about climate. Climate change impacts the ocean, water resources, food security, ecosystems and the sustainable development of the entire planet.”
UN secretary-general António Guterres invited world leaders to the Climate Action Summit to deliver realistic plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.
Taalas is a member of the steering committee for the Climate Action Summit and co-chair of the Climate Science Advisory Group, along with Leena Srivastava, vice chancellor of India’s Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) School of Advanced Studies. The group will now submit its report ahead of the Climate Action Summit to inform world leaders about the state of the climate, as well as science-driven solutions for transformative action and raising ambition in key sectors.
“The last time Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was three to five million years ago when the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20m (ft) higher than now,” said Taalas.
According to the WMO, time is running out to achieve commitments under the Paris agreement to keep the temperature increase by the end of the century to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it even further to 1.5°C.
Heatwaves and high temperatures continue to increase in frequency and intensity across the globe, with many new temperature records in both hemispheres. The unusually early heatwave in Europe – with temperatures in France and Spain exceeding 40°C – is just the latest in a series of extreme weather events.