UN finds global temperatures continue to soar

The extent of Arctic sea ice, a key indicator of global warming, was the sixth lowest on record. (Reuters)

The extent of Arctic sea ice, a key indicator of global warming, was the sixth lowest on record. (Reuters)

The United Nations' World Meteorological Organisation said in its annual report on Monday that 2013 continued what is a long-term trend of the world getting warmer. The year saw floods, droughts, record-breaking heat and generally extreme weather events around the world.

Michel Jarraud, the organisation's secretary general, said in the report: "Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change."

This was evident in more rain, more intense heat and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding because of rising sea levels, he said. 

Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines at the same time as global climate change negotiations were happening last year, was an example of this, he said. It killed more than 6 000 people and caused around R150-billion in damage. 

The report made several key statements:

  • The decade from 2001 to 2010 was the warmest on record, and the past three decades have been warmer than the ones that preceded them.
  • Last year was the sixth warmest on record, with record temperatures reached all over the southern hemisphere. The global average temperature was 14.5°C, making last year's 0.5°C warmer than the long-term average. 
  • The extent of melting Arctic sea ice, a key indicator of global warming, was the sixth lowest on record. The record loss was set in 2012. 

The meteorological association's report comes in the same week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meets to discuss and publish the second part of its fifth report on climate change. This will look at more specific impacts on parts of the world.  

The first part of the UN body's report said there was a 95% certainty that human beings were driving climate change. It predicted that global temperatures will rise by an average of 1.5°C by the end of the century, but probably by 2°C given the lack of action on reducing carbon emissions. 

Sipho Kings

Sipho Kings

Sipho Kings is the person the Mail & Guardian sends to places when people’s environment is collapsing. This leads him from mine dumps to sewage flowing down streets – a hazardous task for his trusty pair of work shoes. Having followed his development-minded parents around Southern Africa his first port of call for reporting on the environment is people on the ground. When things go wrong – when harvests collapse and water dries up – they have limited resources to adapt, which people can never let politicians forget. For the rest of the time he tries to avoid the boggling extremes of corporations and environmental organisations, and rather looks for that fabled 'truth' thing. For Christmas he wants a global agreement where humanity accepts that sustainable development is the way forward. And maybe for all the vested interest to stop being so extreme. And world peace. And a sturdier pair of shoes. Read more from Sipho Kings


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