Warsaw – Day 3: World faces more ‘perfect storms’

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Angola's national tree, the imbondeiro or baobab, helped it through the 2013 drought Image: Alfred Weidinger via Wikimedia Commons

Angola’s national tree, the imbondeiro or baobab, helped it through the 2013 drought
Image: Alfred Weidinger via Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown in Warsaw

One of the Climate News Network editors, Paul Brown, is in the Polish capital, host of the UN climate talks – the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. His latest report describes records continuing to tumble as sea levels rise and warming continues in 2013.

 

The world continues to heat up in 2013, with regional temperature records being broken and sea level rise accelerating, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says in its latest report, Provisional Statement on Status of Climate in 2013.

Sea level rise was particularly significant in the Pacific around the Philippines and had contributed greatly to the devastation caused by the super-typhoon Haiyan, Jerry Lengoasa, deputy general secretary general of the WMO, said here.

The population should have been warned about the tsunami effect of a seven-metre storm surge caused by the typhoon, he said, so that they could have been better prepared to retreat to higher ground.

With the typhoon season not over yet there had already been 30 named storms in the Pacific this year; this was above the average of the last three decades.

Mr Lengoasa said: “What the science tells us is not that there will be more storms, but that the storms we do have will be more violent. ‘Perfect storms’, if we can call them that, like hurricane Sandy last year and typhoon Haiyan this year will become the normal.”

Sea level had risen a third of a metre in the central Philippine area since 1901, making the area much more vulnerable to storm surges. The average sea level rise round the globe was much lower but was speeding up, and was now 3.2 millimetres a year. This is double the annual average of the last century – 1.6 mm.

Australian heatwave

Mr Lengoasa made special mention of the unprecedented heatwave in Australia, which had the hottest month ever observed in January 2013, and the hottest summer on record. On 7 January a new national averaged daily maximum for Australia was set at 40.3°C, and Moomba in South Australia reached 49.6°C.

At the same time as Mr Lengoasa was speaking the Australian Government was being attacked in a nearby meeting for watering down its commitments to tackle climate change.

The German organisation Climate Analytics said that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plans to dismantle the current climate legislation in his country could lead to Australia increasing emissions in 2020 rather than meeting its target of reducing them by 5% on their 2000 levels.

Even the 5% target was inadequate and consistent with an increasing global temperature rise of 3.5 to 4°C, well above the 2°C danger level that world leaders have agreed must not be exceeded.  Climate Analytics claimed that under the Abbott plan emissions would increase by 12% by 2020.

Australia ‘the new climate pariah’

Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, said: “The existing legislation would have bent the relentless upward curve of Australian emissions downwards, a first step towards a low carbon, climate-safe future. The new policy will see this dismantled and replaced by a climate policy that goes against the science.”

An Australian climate campaigner for Climate Action Network, Julie-Anne Richards, said her country was the new pariah in climate action. “Even the United States and China take more action in fighting climate change than Australia”, she said.

Mr Lengoasa’s presentation was a summary of the weather statistics up to the end of September this year. He said that the year was on course to be among the ten hottest years ever recorded, and warmer than both 2011 and 2012. “It looks as if after a dip during the La Niña episodes, the temperatures are rising again”, he said, cautioning that the statistics were for nine months only.

The year had also been notable for regional floods and droughts. In South America, much below average rainfall was recorded in North East Brazil, where parts of the region suffered their worst drought in 50 years. The Brazilian plateau, the monsoon region of South America received the least rainfall since records began in 1979. The southern African countries of Angola and Namibia “were gripped by one of the worst droughts in the past 30 years.”

At the other extreme in Europe Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland had intense and extended flooding in late May and early June, and the West African summer monsoon brought welcome rainfall over most of central and western parts of the Sahel. – Climate News Network