Extreme weather warnings at UN climate meeting

Marlowe HOOD AFP Yahoo News 9 Nov 16;

Marrakesh (Morocco) (AFP) - Many of the deadly heatwaves and hurricanes, droughts and floods this decade have borne the imprint of man-made global warming, said a series of reports Tuesday that warned of worse to come.

With one eye on the American presidential contest between climate change denier Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, UN envoys gathered in Morocco for a second day of talks on putting the Paris Agreement into action.

Trump had vowed to "cancel" the climate rescue pact if he wins, but a series of new reports warned Tuesday of the importance of staying the course.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the last half-decade from 2011 to 2015 was the warmest five-year stretch on record, with 2014 and 2015 the hottest years of all.

In a report issued on the sidelines of the Marrakesh gathering, it warned of "the increasingly visible human footprint on extreme weather and climate events with dangerous and costly impacts."

Climate change "has increased the risks of extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, record rainfall and damaging floods," WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

In a separate report, risk analysts Germanwatch said more than half-a-million people worldwide died as a result of almost 11,000 extreme weather events from 1996 to 2015.

These caused damage upwards of three trillion dollars (2.7 trillion euros).

Four of the 10 countries hardest hit by extreme weather events in 2015 were in Africa, said Germanwatch.

Poor countries, which contributed least to the planet-warming greenhouse gases now in Earth's atmosphere, were also least prepared to deal with the fallout -- superstorms, extreme drought, heatwaves and flooding, it added.

Mozambique topped the list of nations most affected on the agency's Global Climate Risk Index, followed by Dominica, Malawi and India.

Myanmar, Ghana and Madagascar were also among the top 10.

- 'Little time to adapt' -

The Paris Agreement, the world's first universal climate pact, vows to cap global warming to under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, while aiming for 1.5 C.

This will be done through curbing emissions of manmade greenhouse gases, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas for heat and energy.

The UN talks in Marrakesh will negotiate rules for implementing the accord, which entered into force last week.

Climate scientists find it difficult -- when assessing an individual extreme weather event -- to determine the proportion of blame ascribed to global warming instead of natural climate variability.

But rapidly-accumulating climate data has recently made it easier to compare what is happening to the climate to past predictions about the impacts of manmade warming.

Looking over five-year time scales helps smooth out natural year-to-year variations and reveal the role of climate change a little more clearly.

"Of 79 studies published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that human-induced climate change contributed to the extreme event in question," said the WMO report.

The correlation with climate change was strongest for high temperatures, according to the WMO, but less obvious for rain and snow.

Adding to the warnings, Britain's National Oceanography Centre said warming of 2 C by 2040 would see more than 90 percent of the world's coastal areas experience sea level rise of more than 20 centimetres (7.8 inches).

The Atlantic coast of North America and Norway would see as much as 40 cm.

"Coastal cities and vulnerable tropical coastal ecosystems will have very little time to adapt to the fast sea level rise these predictions show," said the paper's lead author Svetlana Jevrejeva.

In a worst-case-scenario 5 C-warmer world, 80 percent of coastlines would have sea levels rise over 1.8 metres (5.9 feet) by the end of the century.

Oceans rise partly due to water expanding as it warms, but also from the melting ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica.

2015 set a number of frightening climate records, the WMO noted.

Among others, it was the first year in which the average global surface temperature -- across land and sea -- was a full 1 C over the pre-industrial benchmark.


Africa hit worst by extreme weather in 2015
AFP Yahoo News 8 Nov 16;

Marrakesh (Morocco) (AFP) - Four of the 10 countries hammered hardest in 2015 by climate-boosted extreme weather are in Africa, according to a report released Tuesday at UN climate talks in Marrakesh.

"Africa is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change," said Sonke Kreft, lead author of the Global Climate Risk Index 2017 report, issued annually by risk analysts Germanwatch.

Poor countries in general are more exposed to the ravages of superstorms, drought, heatwaves and flooding, all of which have become more intense and frequent due to human-induced global warming.

"The distribution of climatic events is not fair," Kreft said, noting that the world's least developed countries have emitted only a small fraction of the greenhouse gases heating up the planet.

Mozambique tops the list of nations most affected on the 2015 climate risk index, followed by Dominica, Malawi and India. Myanmar, Ghana and Madagascar are also among the top 10.

The index measures level of exposure and vulnerability to extreme events.

Climate models predicting that global warming enhances both the intensity and frequence of such events have been borne out by a crescendo of deadly weather, especially over the last decade.

More than half-a-million people worldwide died as a direct result of almost 11,000 extreme weather events from 1996 to 2015, according to the report, which has been tracking risk, country-by-country, for more than a decade.

Storms, heatwaves, floods and other climate-related natural disasters caused upwards of three trillion dollars (2.7 trillion euros) damage over the same period.

During those two decades, the countries worst hit were Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti.

The Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand were also among the worst affected, taking into account both lives lost and the cost of damage.

The report does not factor out what percentage of the damage done can be attributed directly to global warming.

The UN talks, tasked with implementing the landmark Paris Agreement inked last December, run through November 18.


UN Report: Human Footprint 'Increasingly Visible' in Climate
KARL RITTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS Yahoo News 8 Nov 16;

MARRAKECH, Morocco: Hot and wild and with an "increasingly visible human footprint" — that's how the U.N. weather agency sums up the global climate in the past five years.

In a report released Tuesday at international climate talks in Morocco, the World Meteorological Organization said 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year period on record.

That comes as no surprise as WMO's annual reports have showed record average temperatures in 2014 and 2015. But the agency said the five-year report provides a better overview of warming trends and extreme events such as prolonged droughts and recurrent heatwaves.

"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," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

The WMO's preliminary climate assessment for 2016 is set to be released next week.

While it's complicated to draw links between single weather events and climate change, the report found that many extreme events during the period were made more likely as a result of man-made climate change. In the case of some extreme high temperatures, the probability increased by a factor of 10 or more, the report said.

"Examples include the record high seasonal and annual temperatures in the United States in 2012 and in Australia in 2013, hot summers in eastern Asia and western Europe in 2013, heatwaves in spring and autumn 2014 in Australia, record annual warmth in Europe in 2014, and a heatwave in Argentina in December 2013," WMO said.

The report found no strong climate change link for extreme rainfall events.

Other highlights:

— Arctic summer sea ice coverage was 28 percent below the 1981-2010 average, reaching a record low in 2012. By contrast the Antarctic sea ice was above average, especially the winter maximum.

— Surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet — a contributor to rising seas — continued at above-average levels, exceeding the 1981-2010 average in all five years from 2011 to 2015. Mountain glaciers also continued their decline.

— Snow cover in the northern hemisphere was "well below average" in all five years, continuing a strong downward trend.

Climate scientists who were not involved with the report said it underscored the need for governments to boost efforts to fight climate change beyond their pledges for last year's landmark Paris Agreement.

"The evidence is overwhelming," said Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "The new report from WMO is a clarion call for embracing and going beyond the goals of the Paris Agreement."

The Paris deal calls for keeping global temperature rises below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial times. The average temperature in 2015, partly influenced by a powerful El Nino event, was already halfway there.

"Halting global warming at a manageable level, as the world's nations decided in the Paris Agreement, is now a race against time," said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute in Germany.

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