Earth continues to warm: UN

Global warming | A United Nations report observes a rise in ocean temperature and extreme weather; official expects events to continue

GENEVA (Reuters) — The trend of global warming is not reversing and there is still consistent evidence for man-made climate change, says the head of the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization.


A slow-down in the average pace of warming at the planet’s surface this century has been cited by climate skeptics as evidence that climate change is not happening at the potentially catastrophic rate predicted by a UN panel of scientists.


However, WMO chief Michel Jarraud said ocean temperatures, in particular, were rising fast, and extreme weather events, forecast by climate scientists, showed climate change was inevitable for the coming centuries.


“There is no standstill in global warming,” Jarraud said as he presented the agency’s annual review of the world’s climate, which concluded that 2013 tied with 2007 as the sixth hottest year since 1850, when recording of annual figures began.


“The warming of our oceans has accelerated, and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans,” he said.


“Levels of these greenhouse gases are at a record, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”


The 21-page report said the global land and sea surface temperature in 2013 was 14.5 C, or .5 C higher than the 1961-90 average. It was also .03 C higher than the average for 2001-10.


The WMO report pointed to droughts, heat waves, rising seas, floods and tropical cyclones around the globe last year as evidence of what the future might hold.


It was issued on the eve of a March 25-29 conference that brought climate scientists together with officials from more than 100 governments in Japan to approve a report on the effects of future global warming and how these might be mitigated.


A draft of the report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said global warming will disrupt food supplies, slow world economic growth and may already be causing irreversible damage to nature.


IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri said the report made the scientific arguments for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions even more compelling.


Some 200 countries have agreed to try to limit global warming to less than 2 C above pre-industrial times, largely by reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.


Skeptics argue that changes in global weather are the product of natural fluctuations or other natural causes.


However, Jarraud rejected such arguments.


He said natural phenomena such as volcanoes or the El Nino-La Nina weather patterns originating in Pacific Ocean temperature changes had always framed the planet’s climate, affecting heat levels and disasters such as drought and floods.


“But many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change,” Jarraud said, pointing to the destruction wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.


Another example was the record hot summer of 2012-13 in Australia, which brought huge bush fires and destruction of property. Computer simulations showed the heat wave was five times as likely under human influence on climate, he added.


Among other extreme events that were probably due to climate change last year were winter freezes in Europe and the southeastern United States, heavy rain and floods in northeastern China and eastern Russia, snow across the Middle East and drought in southeastern Africa.