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expert reaction to the WMO state of the climate report

Reactions to the publication of the WMO statement on the state of the global climate in 2018

Prof Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, University of Oxford, said:

“The WMO focusses on observed temperature last year, but what really matters is the ongoing human contribution to global warming.  This has passed 1 degree and is increasing at over 0.2 degrees per decade — faster than ever before, taking us to 1.5 degrees sometime between 2030 and around 2050.  This doesn’t mean ‘12 years until climate breakdown’ as we have no reason to expect a sudden global climate shift as soon as warming approaches 1.5 degrees, but at the same time there are plenty of places experiencing increasingly severe climate impacts already. Impacts become progressively more negative as temperatures rise. This may be annoying for banner-makers and headline-writers, but it is just the way climate change works: introducing artificial deadlines is ultimately counterproductive.”

Dr Phil Williamson, Honorary Reader at the University of East Anglia, employed by the Natural Environment Research Council, said:

“The World Meteorological Organization defines climate on the basis of 30-year averages: nevertheless, year-to-year changes give important insights as to where we are currently heading. Unfortunately, the data for 2018 is serious enough to make alarm bells ring.  Whilst last year wasn’t a record-breaker in terms of increased land and ocean surface temperatures, it was for the ocean (where more than 90% of the extra energy goes), measured in terms of ocean heat content.  The rise in global mean sea level was also exceptional, adding an extra 3.7mm over the year – and consistent with long-term acceleration. 

“2018 also seems likely to be the year with the greatest number of displaced people, more than 2 million, due to disasters linked to weather and climate events.  The obvious need is for those changes to be heading in the opposite direction.  Hopefully there will be one year in the not too distant future when the WMO annual climate statement gives good news, as a result of global policy action; however, that hasn’t happened yet.”

Prof Peter Stott, of the Met Office, said:

“The WMO report documents the latest information on our rapidly changing climate. It shows a steadily mounting toll of heatwaves making human health worse, an example of which was the 65 000 people taken to hospital with heat-related symptoms during a heatwave in Karachi, Pakistan in 2018. Another significant impact reported by WMO is the  loss of ice  from the Antarctic ice sheet due to an enhanced flow of glaciers at a rate that has been increasing over time. These latest results underscore once again the pressing urgency of dealing with climate change through reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They also highlight the further efforts needed by climate scientists to improve understanding and prediction of the impacts of climate change including on human health and on the polar ice sheets.”

Prof Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“These past 25 years the WMO have carefully documented a gathering ‘Perfect Storm’ where rising global temperatures and a destabilising climate combine with faltering food, water and energy security in a disastrous cocktail for humanity. This latest report lays bare how the impacts of climate change are now being felt in every sector and every ecosystem. For those who still think we can leave tackling climate change for tomorrow the message here is thunderous: the Perfect Storm is no longer brewing, it has arrived.”

Prof Jonathan Bamber, Director of the Bristol Glaciology Centre, University of Bristol, said:

“Accelerating sea level rise due to climate change is now clearly identifiable from the satellite record covering the last 25 years. If this trend continues then sea level rise could reach 65 cm by 2100, creating an existential threat to small island nation states and displacing many millions of people.”

Dr Sally Brown, Research Fellow, University of Southampton, said:

“This report highlights the increase in the rate of sea-level rise, and this is a real concern for those living in low-lying coastal areas, for both developing and developing countries. We know that sea-level rise is a global problem that will not go away, and efforts need to be made to help those who are really vulnerable to adapt to sea-level rise or move to safer areas.”

Declared interests

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