A new United Nations report says hurricanes, monsoon floods and continuing severe drought made 2017 the costliest year ever for severe weather and climate events.
“The start of 2018 has continued where 2017 left off with extreme weather claiming lives and destroying livelihoods,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the UN weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The UN said the WMO “Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2017” drew attention to the high impact that extreme weather had on economic development, food security, health and migration, pointing to estimates showing disaster losses from weather and climate-related events at US$320 billion, the largest annual total on record.
The statement confirmed that last year was one of the three warmest on record, and the warmest not influenced by an El Niño event. It also examined other long-term indicators of climate change, such as increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, sea level rise, shrinking sea ice and ocean heat.
According to the report, the North Atlantic hurricane season was not only the costliest ever for the United States, but it also “eradicated decades of small Caribbean islands’ development gains”
Taalas said since the inaugural ‘Statement on the State of the Global Climate’, in 1993, scientific understanding of the complex climate system has progressed rapidly.
“This includes our ability to document the occurrence of extreme weather and climate events, the degree to which they can be attributed to human influences, and the correlation of climate change with epidemics and vector-borne diseases,” he said.
Compiled by WMO with input from national meteorological services and UN partners, the UN said the statement details that 2017 global mean temperatures were about 1.1 °C above pre-industrial temperatures.
The report also provided detailed information to support the international agenda on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change, the UN said.
“In the past quarter of a century, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen from 360 parts per million to more than 400 ppm. They will remain above that level for generations to come, committing our planet to a warmer future, with more weather, climate and water extremes,” Taalas said.
The report revealed that the overall risk of heat-related illness or death has climbed steadily since 1980, with around 30 per cent of the world’s population now living in climatic conditions that deliver potentially deadly temperatures at least 20 days a year, the UN said.
Additionally, from November 2016 to December 2017, it said 892,000 drought-related displacements were recorded.
“Now more than ever, we need to be weather-ready, climate-smart and water-wise,” Taalas said.