While skeptics say that climate change is only a distant risk, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) states that it is a far more immediate risk than once thought. During the WMO annual assessment in Geneva on Monday, the year 2013 was revealed to be the sixth warmest year on record and 13 of the 14 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century.
WMO’s Secretary-General Michael Jaurrad says, “Damage has increased due to storms and flooding. Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013 killed at least 6,100 people and it caused $13 billion in damage to Vietnam and the Philippines. Most of the extreme weather events in 2013 are a result of human-induced climate change.”
As Jaurrad met with top climate scientists and representatives from 100 governments with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Japan, the latest report was completed on the impact of climate change on disease, hunger, drought, flooding, refugees and war. The conclusion of the report is clear and frightening, as the risks of climate change appear to be far more immediate than once thought.
Severe floods are becoming more common in Africa and Australia as well as in Europe and North America. Additionally, melting ice in the Arctic is not only affecting polar bears, but also indigenous people in the north of Canada.
Michael Mann, scientist at the Pennsylvania State University, says that previous reports of the panel have been largely ignored because the effects of climate change seemed distant; however, the latest report is impossible to be ignored. “It is not something that will happen in the future and it is not only affecting exotic creatures. It is about us and it is about now,” he says.
The chief author of the report, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institute of Science in California, says, “Managing the risks of climate change is an extremely difficult challenge, but it is very clear that we are not ready for the events we have been seeing over the past years.” Additionally, the panel says that climate change will cause an increase in international tension as well as an increase in food prices, poverty and health problems. It is also predicted that it may cause a decrease in availability of water and economic growth.
Although the report of the panel is alarming, some scientists remain skeptical, stating that the risk of climate change is minor compared to poverty; however, the American Association for the Advancement of Science confirms that climate change is happening right now. “The changes in climate have severe consequences for human health, ecosystems and agricultural systems around the globe. These problems will become worse in the next 10 to 20 years,” their report states.
While speaking in Geneva, Jaurrad revealed that Australia had its warmest year on record. He also pointed out that the damage in Europe, caused by floods in June, was worth $22 billion and typhoon Fitow has caused $10 billion in damage in China and Japan. Other parts of China suffered from severe drought, resulting into damage of another $10 billion.
Jaurrad points out that the extreme weather events of the past year are impossible to reproduce without human influence, concluding once again that the risks of climate change are far more immediate than scientists once thought.
By Diana Herst