An annual assessment of the Earth’s climate by the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization (WMO) underscored the stakes at two weeks of talks aimed at shoring up the 2015 Paris Agreement to avert catastrophic global warming.
“Heatwaves and floods which used to be ‘once-in-a-century’ events are becoming more regular occurrences,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
“Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia,” he said.
The report also noted that surges in sea temperatures known as “marine heatwaves” which devastate underwater life had become more common.
The report said the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019. Opening the climate summit on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned that 400 parts per million had once been considered an “unthinkable” tipping point.
A drumbeat of dire reports from climate science in the past year has fueled environmental activism, prompted some companies to commit to slashing emissions and raised concerns among investors about the stability of asset prices.
Nevertheless, delegates in Madrid are facing an uphill battle to persuade major emitters to embrace the kind of radical change needed to shift the Earth’s climate system onto a more habitable trajectory.