‘The evidence, if we needed any more, continues to stack up. The record-high heatwaves, record-low Arctic sea ice, above average tropical cyclones and deadly wildfires are an alarm bell impossible to ignore. We’re in the midst of a climate crisis and this meteorological report spells out the worsening threat in startling clarity. It’s no longer our future that is in peril; our today is at risk.
‘The recent IPCC report also showed that we still have hope. We have 12 years to move the needle and any leader who comes to COP24 unprepared to step up and take action needs to read the WMO report and understand it’s time to stop talking and start acting on climate – while we still have the chance.’
JENS MATTIAS CLAUSEN
Greenpeace’s head of delegation at COP24
Hurricanes Florence and Michael were associated with huge economic damage and considerable loss of life in the United States. Gita, in the South Pacific, was the most intense and most expensive cyclone to ever hit Tonga.
In August, the southwest Indian state of Kerala suffered the worst flooding since the 1920s, displacing more than 1.4 million people from their homes and affecting more than 5.4 million.
Large parts of western Japan experienced destructive flooding in late June and early July, killing at least 230 people and destroying thousands of homes. Flooding affected many parts of east Africa in March and April. This included Kenya and Somalia, which had previously been suffering from severe drought, as well as Ethiopia and northern and central Tanzania. An intense low-pressure system in the Mediterranean Sea in late October brought flooding, high winds and loss of life.
Large parts of Europe experienced exceptional heat and drought through the late spring and summer of 2018, leading to wildfires in Scandinavia. In July and August, there were numerous record high temperatures north of the Arctic Circle, and record long runs of warm temperatures, including 25 consecutive days above 25 °C in Helsinki (Finland).
Parts of Germany had a long spell of days above 30°C, whilst a heatwave in France was associated with a number of deaths. It was also an exceptionally warm and dry period in the United Kingdom and Ireland. A short but intense heatwave affected Spain and Portugal in early August.
Dry conditions were especially persistent in Germany, the Czech Republic, western Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and parts of France. The Rhine approached record low flows by mid-October, seriously disrupting river transport.
Eastern Australia experienced significant drought during 2018, especially New South Wales and southern Queensland, with much of the region receiving less than half its average rainfall for the period from January to September. Severe drought affected Uruguay, and northern and central Argentina, in late 2017 and early 2018, leading to heavy agricultural losses.
Both Japan and the Republic of Korea saw new national heat records (41.1 °C and 41.0°C respectively). Oman reported one of the highest known minimum overnight temperature of 42.6 °C in June. Algeria saw a new national of 51.3 °C in July.
One of the most significant cold outbreaks of recent years affected Europe in late February and early March.
Major wildfires affected Athens (Greece) on 23 July, with many fatalities. British Columbia in Canada broke its record for the most area burned in a fire season for the second successive year. California suffered devastating wildfires, with November’s Camp Fire being the deadliest fire in over a century for the USA.
Human climate impacts
The provisional statement contained details of impacts of climate change, based on contributions from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), UN High Commission for Refugees UNHCR) and World Food Programme (WFP). This section will be expanded in the final statement, to be released in March 2019.
Exposure of agriculture sectors to climate extremes is threatening to reverse gains made in ending malnutrition. New evidence shows a rise in world hunger after a prolonged decline.
In 2017, the number of undernourished people was estimated to have increased to 821 million, according The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 by FAO, WFP, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the UN Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization.
Africa is the region where climate events had the biggest impact on acute food insecurity and malnutrition in 2017, affecting 59 million people in 24 countries and requiring urgent humanitarian action. Much of the vulnerability to climate variability is associated with the dryland farming and pastoral rangeland systems supporting 70–80% of the continent’s rural population.
Out of the 17.7 million Internally Displaced Persons tracked by the IOM, 2.3 million people were displaced due to disasters linked to weather and climate events as of September 2018. In Somalia, some 642 000 new internal displacements were recorded between January and July 2018 by UNHCR, with flooding the primary reason for displacement (43%), followed by drought (29%), and conflict (26%).
UN agencies including UNESCO-IOC and UNEP are tracking environmental impacts associated with climate change include coral bleaching, reduced levels of oxygen in the oceans, loss of ‘Blue Carbon’ associated with coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and salt marshes.
Climate change also exposes peatlands currently protected by permafrost to thawing and possible increased methane emissions and loss of carbon, and the associated sea-level rise increases the risks of coastal erosion and salination of freshwater peatlands.
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