WTO says record heat over last five years suggests human cause

MARRAKESH, Morocco (Reuters) — The past five years were the hottest on record with mounting evidence that heat waves, floods and rising sea levels are stoked by man-made climate change, the United Nations weather agency has said.

Some freak weather events would have happened naturally but the World Meteorological Organization said greenhouse gas emissions had raised the risks of extreme events, sometimes by a factor of 10 or more.

“We just had the hottest five-year period on record, with 2015 claiming the title of hottest individual year. Even that record is likely to be beaten in 2016,” WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said in a written statement.

Superstorm Sandy caused $67 billion of damage in 2012, mostly in the United States, it said in a report issued to a meeting of almost 200 nations in Morocco tasked with implementing a 2015 global agreement to combat climate change.

The last five-year period beat 2006-10 as the warmest such period since records began in the 19th century.

The heat was accompanied by a gradual rise in sea levels spurred by melting glaciers and ice sheets. The changes “confirmed the long-term warming trend caused by greenhouse gases,” the WMO said of the report.

In 2015, the amount of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, reached 400 parts per million in the atmosphere for the first time in records, it said.

Last year was the first in which temperatures were 1 C above pre-industrial times, partly because of an El Nino weather event that warmed the Pacific.

The 2015 Paris Agreement set an overriding target of limiting warming to “well below” 2 C above pre-industrial times, ideally just 1.5 C.

But pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions are too weak and put the globe on target for about 3 C, UN data show.

The Marrakesh meeting is looking to step up actions.

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