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2017 to be among three hottest years in history

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
06 November 2017   |   4:34 am
It is likely that 2017 will be one of the three hottest years on record, with many high-impact incidents, including catastrophic hurricanes and floods, debilitating heat waves and drought.

Flooding in Lagos

Marked by record-breaking extreme weather

It is likely that 2017 will be one of the three hottest years on record, with many high-impact incidents, including catastrophic hurricanes and floods, debilitating heat waves and drought.

Long-term indicators of climate change such as increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, sea level rise and ocean acidification have continued to manifest. Arctic sea ice coverage remains below average and previously stable Antarctic sea ice extent is already at or near a record low.

The World Meteorological Organisation’s state of the climate report revealed that the average global temperature from January to September 2017 was approximately 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era as a result of a powerful El Niño.

Also, 2016 is likely to remain the warmest year on record, with 2017 and 2015 being second and third, just as 2013 to 2017 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record.

The statistics to be released today at the opening of the United Nations climate change conference in Bonn include information submitted by a wide range of UN agencies on human, socio-economic and environmental impact as part of a drive to provide a more comprehensive, UN-wide policy brief for decision makers on the interplay of weather, climate and water and the UN global goals.

Global mean temperature for the period January to September 2017 was 0.47°±0.08°C warmer than the 1981-2010 average (estimated at 14.31°C). This represents an approximately 1.1°C increase in temperature since the pre-industrial period.

The global mean sea level (GMSL) is one of the best climate change indicators. It has been relatively stable in 2017 to date, similar to levels first reached in late 2015. This is because the temporary influence of the 2015-16 El Niño (during which GMSL peaked in early 2016 at around 10 millimeters above the 2004-2015 trend) has continued to unwind and GMSL is reverting to values closer to the long-term trend. Preliminary data indicate that a rise in GMSL may have started to resume from July to August 2017 onwards.

Flooding affected many parts of Nigeria and rendered thousands homeless in Lagos, Edo, Port Harcourt and Benue. The Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that there were significant crop production losses, particularly maize.

“The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long-term warming trend,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. “We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.

“Many of these events – and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many – bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities,” he said.

The Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, which is hosting the Bonn conference, Patricia Espinosa, said: “These findings underline the rising risks to people, economies and the very fabric of life on Earth if we fail to get on track with the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

“There is unprecedented and very welcome momentum among governments, but also cities, states, territories, regions, business and civil society. Bonn 2017 needs to be the launch pad towards the next higher level of ambition by all nations and all sectors of society as we look to de-risk the future and maximize the opportunities from a fresh, forward-looking and sustainable development path”, she added.

Extreme events affect the food security of millions of people, especially the most vulnerable. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) found that in developing countries, agriculture (crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry) accounted for 26 per cent of all the damage and loss associated with medium to large-scale storms, floods and drought.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global health impacts of heat waves depend not only on the overall warming trend, but on how the waves are distributed across where people live. Recent research shows that the overall risk of heat-related illness or death has climbed steadily since 1980, with around 30 per cent of the world’s population now living in climatic conditions that deliver prolonged extreme heat waves.

Between 2000 and 2016, the number of vulnerable people exposed to heat wave events increased by approximately 125 million.

In 2016, 23.5 million people were displaced during weather-related disasters. Consistent with previous years, the majority of these internal displacements were associated with Nigeria and other countries.

The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook indicates that adverse consequences are concentrated in countries with relatively hot climate and which are home to close to 60 per cent of current global population.