UN agency issues climate 'red alert'

By Earle Gale (Chinadaily.com.cn) 10:59, March 20, 2024

A man stands next to his flooded house after a heavy downpour in Garissa County, Kenya, on Nov 22, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Last year was the warmest 12 months on record, according to the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization, or WMO, which issued a "red alert" on Tuesday as it urged the world to sit up and take notice.

The agency, which aims to provide detailed climate-change information and promote international cooperation in the fight against global warming, made the revelation in its State of the Global Climate report for 2023.

Using data from the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service and from the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as from four other sources, the WMO said unusually warm weather flared in the middle of 2023 and has continued ever since.

It said February was the ninth consecutive month to officially be declared the warmest on record, some 1.77 C hotter than the estimated February average between 1850 and 1900, which is used as the pre-industrial reference point.

For the year 2023 as a whole, the global temperature was 1.45 C above the pre-industrial level.

Firefighters combat fire in the Serra do Coco forest area in Riachao das Neves, Bahia state, Brazil, Sept 22, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Celeste Saulo, the WMO's secretary-general, said the world has never been closer to the 1.5 C temperature rise set out in the Paris Agreement as the point at which any rise would become irreversible.

"Climate change is about much more than temperatures," she added. "What we witnessed in 2023, especially with the unprecedented ocean warmth, glacier retreat, and Antarctic sea ice loss, is cause for particular concern … The WMO community is sounding the red alert to the world."

She said the volume of global sea ice recorded in February was the fourth-smallest in the 46 years that records have been kept. The ice was also particularly hard hit last year in the Antarctic region, where it was 958,295 square kilometers smaller than its average size, which amounted to the second-smallest mass ever recorded.

The WMO said sea levels have been rising as a result, with them edging up by an average of 3.34 millimeters a year during the past 30 years.

Children play at an artificial fountain to cool off in Sheraton hotel park in Doha, Qatar, on July 6, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, described the latest global climate report, with its accounts of heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and intense tropical cyclones, as the description of a planet on the brink.

"Sirens are blaring across all major indicators," Guterres said. "Some records aren't just chart-topping, they're chart-busting. And changes are speeding up."

He said the Earth is "issuing a distress call", with fossil fuel pollution "sending climate chaos off the charts".

The report said the changing global climate has contributed to the fact that the number of people going hungry around the world has more than doubled during the past four years, with the 149 million people classed as "acutely food insecure" in 2019 having risen to 333 million today.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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