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expert reaction to the WMO State of the Climate report

The World Meteorological Organisation has published their ‘State of the Climate’ report.


Prof. John Turner, Climatologist at the British Antarctic Survey, said:

Antarctic sea ice continues to surprise us. Its highly variable nature has been noted in the WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2017, which highlighted the swing from a record maximum in 2014 to a record minimum in 2017. With only 40 years of data we have to be careful about attributing this change to a specific cause and speculating whether this marks a cessation of the positive trend in Antarctic sea ice extent that we’ve seen since the late 1970s. However, projections from a number of climate models all agree that Antarctic sea ice is likely to decline significantly through the 21st century and this will have a big impact on global and regional climate, and on the iconic Antarctic marine fauna.”


Prof. Richard Pancost, Director of the University of Bristol Cabot Institute, said:

“As we open COP23, it is entirely appropriate that the WMO provide a timely update on the State of the Climate.  What the update shows is that climate change is largely what we understand it to be.  Greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and consequently so do temperatures and sea level, and global sea ice continues to decline.  Sadly, we continue to set new ‘climate records’ for recorded human history. But we live in a time when breaking records is not something surprising but the inevitable consequence of well understood processes and the culmination of long-term trends.  Breaking climate records has become the norm not the exception and will remain so for the coming decades – and longer if we do not act now.

“In addition, the report does an excellent job of summarising recent extreme weather events.  The details of such events – especially their nature and locations – are harder to predict than warming trends.  These new summaries are beginning to help us understand where drought, famine and hurricanes will occur and be most impactful.  Knowing this will help us adapt, but it also underscores the urgency of action.

“Most of the nations at COP23 are prepared to act and to ratchet up their commitments.  Cities and countries are phasing out coal permanently and initiating policies that will end petrol-powered cars. However, the United States under Trump’s leadership will be an obstructionist presence, felt at a COP for the first time.  And even the boldest of nations are moving too slowly to limit warming to agreed targets.  Nations will need to recommit to tackling climate change and start enacting real policies and making real investments to achieve it.”


Dr Paul Young, Climate Scientist at the Lancaster Environment Centre, said:

“The weather for one given year in insolation does not tell us about climate change, but combined with the long record of temperatures, ocean heat content, sea level and ice sheet size we have, it is absolutely clear that the world is warming, and that it is our continued release of greenhouse gases that is causing it.

“The one good news story that we have is that the ozone layer is showing signs of recovery, and that the latest data suggests that this year’s Antarctic ozone hole is one of the smallest in recent years. We need to continue our vigilance in not releasing more ozone depletion substances, but we can take heart that the world can come together and agree action to protect the environment.”


Prof. Martin Siegert, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said:

“The state of our climate is being reset by humans. What were once 1 in a hundred year events are now turning into a regular events. We see this in terms of extreme weather impacts, with examples from the South US this year, and in terms of global warming because if it weren’t for 2015 and 2016, then 2017 would be the warmest year on record. For the future, we can expect more of the same – more extreme events impacting society heavily, and further warming. The need for action to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, and for a zero-carbon future, could not be more obvious.”


Prof. Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading, said:

“This year saw a multitude of damaging weather extremes which is not uncommon but many of these events were made more severe by the sustained warming influence of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels due to human activities.

“An increased severity of weather extremes is expected in the decades ahead as Earth continues to heat up and it is only with the substantive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions required by the Paris climate agreement that we can avert much more potent and widespread damage to our societies and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”


Dr Mark Brandon, Reader in Polar Oceanography at The Open University, said:

“Whilst the Arctic sea ice extent did not break the record minimum, the trend is clear – Arctic sea ice is continuing its consistent downward trajectory. It remains likely the Arctic will be ‘ice-free’ during the summer by the middle of the century.”


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

“This dispatch from the frontlines of the battle against dangerous climate change makes for sombre reading. Flood levels surging, millions of people enveloped by heatwaves, and Arctic sea ice in full retreat. Yet there are victories too. Human-induced carbon emissions aren’t falling, but they have at least been held in check. Businesses, cities and nations around the world are proving that sustainable low-carbon development is possible. The battles to come are daunting, but in the Paris Climate Agreement we have a blueprint of how this global war can be won.”


Prof. Richard Betts, Professor of Climate Impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Exeter, said:

“The impacts of extreme weather this year give us a taste of things to come under a warming climate.  Although nowhere will escape the impacts of climate change, we expect developing countries to be hit the hardest in terms of human impact.  Flooding will be a particular threat in South Asia, partly due to increased rainfall and rising sea levels, and partly because of the large and growing numbers of people who have little choice about being in harm’s way. Life-threatening extreme hot and humid conditions will become more prevalent there and also across Africa, South America, and even the USA. Crop yields are also at risk in those areas.  Ongoing economic development will enable these regions to become more resilient, but there are limits to how far people and societies can adapt.”


Prof. Chris Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at UCL, said:

“Combined with the Environmental Justice Foundation’s ‘Beyond Borders’ recent report, and UNEP’s ‘Emissions Gap Report 2017’ published a few days ago, the WMO’s ‘Statement on the State of The Global Climate in 2017’ makes grim reading. Whether via sea level rise, ocean heat content, extreme heatwaves, droughts, floods, melting ice, shifting ecosystems or displaced peoples, the planet is sending increasingly strong warnings. Climate change and its consequences are with us now. We are imperfectly adapted to the climate system we inherited, and much less so to the one we are provoking. The signals are timely, as the nations committed to the Paris Accord have the opportunity to raise their ambitions. Possibly the most worrying signal is the unprecedented rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration, despite the fact that human emissions have levelled off. It is time for a massive acceleration of global collective action. A decade ago the task was characterised as “Avoiding the Unmanageable, Managing the Unavoidable”. Now it might be better phrased “Confronting the Unimaginable”. At a time when the media is saturated with evidence of the visceral mismatch between the UK’s political class and the real world issues humanity faces it is to be hoped that global leadership from China and other more enlightened and effective administrations will have its effect.”


Prof. Stephen Belcher, Chief Scientist at the Met Office, said:

“During an El Niño event, warmth is released from the tropical Pacific Ocean and this influences global temperatures, pushing them above the trend from man-made climate change. However, this year is noteworthy because, even without that extra shove from El Niño, we are seeing annual temperatures that are higher than anything in the record prior to 2015.”


Prof. Tim Osborn, Director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, said:

“Data so far indicate that 2017 will be around 1°C above pre-industrial levels, an increase almost entirely due to human activities – principally the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and gas.”


Prof. Adam Scaife, Head of Monthly to Decadal Prediction at the Met Office, said:

“The global mean surface temperature this year looks likely to agree with the prediction we made at the end of last year that 2017 would be very warm but was unlikely to exceed the record temperature of 2015 and 2016.”


Prof. Brian Hoskins, Chair of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said:

“The long-term trends in globally averaged temperature and sea-level and in the occurrence of heat waves and floods give a warning that needs to be heeded by the nations as they gather in COP23. With urgency they need to agree to increase the momentum of greenhouse gas reductions started in Paris two years ago. ”



Declared interests

Prof. Hoskins: None to declare

Prof. Reay: None to declare

No others received

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