The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Thursday that 2017 was the costliest year ever for extreme weather and climate events caused by heatwaves, hurricanes and floods.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of WMO, stated this in a new report launched on the eve of the 2018 World Meteorological Day.
“The start of 2018 has continued where 2017 left off, with extreme weather claiming lives and destroying livelihoods.”
The WMO statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2017 drew attention to the high impact that extreme weather had on economic development, food security, health and migration.
It pointed to estimates showing disaster losses from weather and climate-related events at 320 billion dollars, the largest annual total on record.
The statement confirmed that 2017 was one of the three warmest on record and the warmest not influenced by an El Niño event.
It also examined other long-term indicators of climate change such as increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, sea level rise, shrinking sea ice and ocean heat.
Taalas, while reflecting on 2017, said: “The Arctic experienced unusually high temperatures, whilst densely populated areas in the northern hemisphere were gripped by bitter cold and damaging winter storms.
“Australia and Argentina suffered extreme heatwaves, whilst drought continued in Kenya and Somalia, and the South African city of Cape Town struggled with acute water shortages”.
According to the report, the North Atlantic hurricane season was not only the costliest ever for the U.S., but it also eradicated decades of small Caribbean islands’ development gains.
Taalas stated that “since the inaugural statement on the State of the Global Climate in 1993, scientific understanding of our complex climate system has progressed rapidly.
“This includes our ability to document the occurrence of extreme weather and climate events, the degree to which they can be attributed to human influences, and the correlation of climate change with epidemics and vector-borne diseases”.
Compiled by WMO with input from national meteorological services and UN partners, the statement detailed that 2017 global mean temperatures were about 1.1 °C above pre-industrial temperatures.
The report also provided detailed information to support the international agenda on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change.
“In the past quarter of a century, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen from 360 parts per million to more than 400 parts per million.
“They will remain above that level for generations to come, committing our planet to a warmer future, with more weather, climate and water extremes,” Taalas asserted.
The report revealed that the overall risk of heat-related illness or death had climbed steadily since 1980.
It showed that around 30 per cent of the world’s population now live in climatic conditions that deliver potentially deadly temperatures at least 20 days a year.
Additionally, from November 2016 to December 2017, 892,000 drought-related displacements were recorded, the report stated.
“Now more than ever, we need to be weather-ready, climate-smart and water-wise,” Taalas stressed