Sustainability Climate Change

World Meteorological Organization warns efforts to curb climate change are falling short


Story at a glance

  • The report says countries are failing to hit targets laid out in the Paris Agreement.
  • “Time is running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption and protect our societies from the inevitable impacts to come,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
  • The report linked extreme weather events to climate change and detailed how it has affected human health.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is warning that the world is quickly running out of time to “avert the worst impacts of climate disruption.” 

The intergovernmental organization’s annual State of the Global Climate 2019 report evaluated land and ocean temperatures, greenhouse gas emissions, sea-level rise and melting ice. The report found that most of these indicators are increasing, meaning that efforts to slow down the rate of global warming are not keeping pace.

The report indicates that the world is failing to hit the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time,” United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Celsius targets that the Paris Agreement calls for.” 

The report confirmed 2019 was the second warmest year on record, as global average temperatures were 1.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, second only to the record set in 2016. The report notes that 2015-2019 were the five warmest years on record, and 2010-2019 was the warmest decade on record. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than the preceding decade since 1850.

The WMO linked heat waves, flooding and extreme weather to climate change, and detailed the impacts of human-caused climate change on oceans, which store carbon and absorb heat from the Earth’s atmosphere. The report found oceans hit their warmest level in recorded history last year. 

The weather events have had a major impact on human health and security. The report notes two heat waves in Europe last year led to 1,462 deaths in the affected regions, while an estimated 22 million people were displaced by flooding and other large weather events last year, up from 17.2 million in 2018. 

The WMO noted that greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase in 2019, with early estimates on the first three quarters of last year indicating CO2 emissions may have jumped by 0.6 percent.

Meanwhile, Antarctica and the Arctic marked low sea ice extents last year as sea levels continue to rise at an accelerated rate, according to the report. 

During a briefing on the agency’s report this week, Guterres said the U.N. in the coming months will be actively engaging Western European nations, the U.S., Canada, China, India, Russia and Japan “in order to have as many as possible, ideally all of them, commit to carbon neutrality in 2050.”