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Wednesday 21 March 2018

'We're running out of time' - Earth on course for hottest year on record

“New highs” in heat-trapping carbon dioxide levels point to quickening climate change. Stock image (Stock picture)
“New highs” in heat-trapping carbon dioxide levels point to quickening climate change. Stock image (Stock picture)

Stephanie Nebehay

The Earth is on track for its hottest year on record and warming at a faster rate than expected, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said yesterday.

Temperatures recorded mainly in the northern hemisphere in the first six months of the year, coupled with an early and fast Arctic sea ice melt and "new highs" in heat-trapping carbon dioxide levels, point to quickening climate change, it said.

June marked the 14th straight month of record heat, the United Nations agency said. It called for speedy implementation of a global pact reached in Paris last December to limit climate change by shifting from fossil fuels to green energy by 2100.

"What we've seen so far for the first six months of 2016 is really quite alarming," David Carlson, director of the WMO's Climate Research Programme, told a news briefing.

"This year suggests that the planet can warm up faster than we expected in a much shorter time ... We don't have as much time as we thought."

The average temperature in the first six months of 2016 was 1.3C warmer than in the pre-industrial era of the late 19th century, according to space agency Nasa.

Under the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 governments agreed to limit global warming to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, while "pursuing efforts" for a ceiling of 1.5C - a lower limit already close to being reached.

"There's almost no plausible scenario at this point that is going to get us anything other than an extraordinary year in terms of ice [melt], CO2, temperature - all the things that we track," Carlson said.

"If we got this much surprise this year, how many more surprises are ahead of us? Climate change, caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases, will not [disappear]. This means we face more heatwaves, more extreme rainfall and potential for higher impact tropical cyclones," said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas.

Repeated extremes, the agency says, such as heatwaves or droughts, could encourage more action to limit greenhouse emissions.

Irish Independent

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