By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – A report issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) shows that the 2015-2019 period is turning out to be the hottest on record, and with it impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise (SLR), ice loss and extreme weather events, are expected to increase.

UN Climate Summit in New York this week, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
UN Climate Summit in New York this week, photo by Cia Pak/United Nations.

“Sea level rise has accelerated and we are concerned that an abrupt decline in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will exacerbate future rise,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“As we have seen this year with tragic effect in the Bahamas and Mozambique, sea level rise and intense tropical storms led to humanitarian and economic catastrophes,” added Taalas who is also co-chair of the Science Advisory Group at the UN Summit.

The report was released on the eve of the United Nations Climate Action Summit, currently underway in New York this week.

The report, dubbed “United in Science” shows that over the five-year period between May 2014 -2019, the rate of global sea-level rise has increased by 5mm per year, compared with 4mm per year in the 2007-2016 ten-year period.

“This is substantially faster than the average rate since 1993 of 3.2 mm per year. The contribution of land ice melt from the world glaciers and the ice sheets has increased over time and now dominate the sea level rise,” says the report.

“In the past, the contribution of the expansion (of SLR) due to heat was the dominant factor. Now it’s the opposite. The flow of the water into the ocean is the dominating factor (for SLR),” explained WMO Senior Scientific Officer and Coordinator of the report Omar Baddour during a press conference on Sunday in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sea level rise has also been linked to more reports of extreme weather events. “The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most devastating on record.”

“[W]ith more than $125 billion in losses associated with Hurricane Harvey alone. On the Indian Ocean, in March and April 2019, unprecedented and devastating back-to-back tropical cyclones hit Mozambique,” stated the report.

Speaking for smaller coastal nations and islands, already being affected by sea level rise, Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, was adamant when speaking on Monday to delegates at the UN General Assembly.

“If it were up to our community of small islands to solve the problem of climate change, it would have been solved three decades ago when we raised it,” said Mottley. “We refuse to be relegated to the footnotes of history and to be collateral damage for the greed of others.”

Science Advisory Board members at a press conference, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Science Advisory Board members at a press conference on the new report ‘United in Science’, photo by Ariana Lindquist/United Nations.

Rising seas is one of the major challenges identified by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which says that 1.5-degree Celsius of warming threatens to inundate small island countries and coastal regions, displacing communities and impacting biodiversity by the end of the century. Mottley agrees.

“The Alliance of Small Island States needs to keep temperature increases in this global community to less than 1.5 degrees to stay alive, not to thrive but to stay alive. In other words, 2 degrees needs to be taken off the table once and for all,” she concluded.

The United Nations is holding the climate summit concurrently with the meeting of its General Assembly, stating that in order to confront the climate crisis, the world needs to increase its efforts.

“Things are getting worse. The worst forecasts that were made are being proven wrong, not because they were too dramatic, but because they were not dramatic enough,” concluded UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.


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