Climate report warns "time is fast running out" to avoid worst

·2 min read

The United Nations' weather and climate agency is out with its annual State of the Climate report, and it says "the tell-tale physical signs of climate change" are everywhere. The report documents unprecedented heat waves, fires and floods over the past year, and warns that there is likely more to come.

In the report, the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) cited the historic fires in Australia and the Amazon, record-shattering heat waves in Europe, and soaring levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In a statement released with the report, the leader of the United Nations calls climate change "the defining challenge of our time" and said "time is fast running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption."

"We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, referring to the goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to no more than 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. "This report outlines the latest science and illustrates the urgency for far-reaching climate action."

plaguing the middle of the nation for months last spring. Total economic losses from flooding in the United States in 2019 were estimated at $20 billion.Tropical cyclones and displacement

There were 105 named tropical systems worldwide in 2019. The strongest storms of the year were Typhoon Halong in the western Pacific with winds of 190 mph and the now infamous Hurricane Dorian, which struck the Bahamas with winds of 185 mph. 

Recent research shows that the extra heat being stored by the oceans is  powering stronger tropical cyclones with heavier rainfalls. That trend is expected to continue in the coming decades.

As a direct result of cyclones, especially a select few major disasters, the WMO report says 6.7 million people were displaced just between January and June of 2019. For the full year, the number was forecast to reach close to 22 million, up from 17.2 million in 2018.

The biggest impact events were Cyclone Idai in Southeast Africa, Cyclone Fani in South Asia and Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. CBS News' "60 Minutes" recently revisited the hard-hit Abaco Islands in the Bahamas to see how residents are recovering. 

Climate scientists are in clear consensus that the devastating climate events of 2019 are in part driven by human-caused climate change, and they say such disasters will only get worse until humanity manages to decarbonize our economies and reduce excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This climate challenge is herculean, but one that is necessary to preserve Earth's fragile life systems.

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