Scientists and energy experts turn up heat on climate negotiators in Haiyan’s wake

Intro

Major new reports from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and GermanWatch have turned up the heat on negotiators holding back progress at UN climate talks in Warsaw. These reports provide fresh information explaining how Typhoon Haiyan was more deadly as a result of climate change and how climate extremes – while prevalent worldwide – are hitting vulnerable communities hardest. These new findings leave little doubt that global warming emissions are on the rise and that governments must take urgent, concrete action to curb climate pollution from the energy sector – in order to prevent a catastrophic temperature rise of up to 6C this century.

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RT @MobileHarv Another wake-up call in case you missed the earlier ones – WMO: Haiyan is climate ‘wake-up call’ http://bbc.in/184HM5E

Key Points

  • The head of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) sent a message that negotiators at UN climate talks can’t ignore:  man-made climate change is making storms like Haiyan are more dangerous. Designed to inform those gathered in Warsaw the WMO launched a provisional report explaining how this year global sea levels have risen to a record high – increasing the vulnerability of coastal populations to the impacts of storm surges. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud explained that “we saw this with tragic consequences in the Philippines” where surges of up to 6 meters swept inexorably across low-lying islands killing an estimated 10,000 people, leaving millions homeless, facing starvation and civil unrest.
  • According to the WMO climate change is already disrupting the water-cycle leading to droughts, floods and extreme rainfall in countries around the world, while others warn that the most vulnerable nations like Haiti, Pakistan and the Philippines are hardest hit. The WMO report highlights that so far in 2013 we have experienced climate extremes from record heatwaves in Australia to flooding in Sudan, USA and Europe. A complementary study from GermanWatch analyses national exposure to climate extremes from the present back to 1993, it shows us that it is the communities least able to protect themselves and most vulnerable to natural disasters that are being affected most by climate impacts.
  • Global energy experts have made it clear to negotiators in Warsaw that to protect vulnerable nations from catastrophic climate impacts this century, governments must take urgent action to address the energy sector that is responsible for ⅔ of global warming emissions. The International Energy Agency (IEA) launched their annual World Energy Outlook saying that the decisions governments make right now, in Warsaw and beyond, can make a tremendous difference to help curb soaring carbon emissions. In order to avoid a temperature rise of up to 6C by 2100 they encourage a boost in support for renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as the phase out of fossil fuel subsidies which reached a massive $544 billion in 2012.

 

Background

The United Nations climate talks in Warsaw and the international media continue to be dominated by the tragic events unfolding in the Philippines which place the reality and human costs of climate change under the spotlight. In the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan as the population suffers from a faltering aid programme, pressure is increasing on negotiators to take decisive action. This pressure is coming not only from the solidarity fast being undertaken by the head of Filipino delegation and his supporters, but also from influential new reports that turn up the heat on negotiators by laying bare the facts of the climate change we are already experiencing today. Reports that clearly tell negotiators that to avoid a disastrous rise in global temperature and more catastrophic climate impacts that leaders must take bold and urgent steps to decarbonise and boost the efficiency of the energy sector.

 Today the World Meteorological Organisation launched its provisional “State of the Climate in 2013” report to catch the eye of negotiators in Warsaw and help them to understand the reality of global warming here and now. It explains that 2013 is currently on course to be among the top ten warmest years since modern records began in 1850. It also warns that as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases reached new highs in 2012, and are likely to reach unprecedented levels yet again in 2013, we are committing ourselves to an even warmer future. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud emphasised that “surface temperatures are only part of the wider picture of our changing climate. The impact on our water cycle is already becoming apparent – as manifested by droughts, floods and extreme precipitation.”

This assessment is supported by a new paper which shows that rainfall patterns across the planet are shifting as a result of climate change. Accordingly the WMO research illustrates how for the first ten months of 2013, there was below-average rainfall across the western United States. Then during early September, there was record-breaking precipitation in Boulder, Colorado, that triggered widespread flooding. Extreme precipitation in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland caused the most intense and extended flooding in late May and early June in the Danube and Elbe river catchments since at least 1950. While along with extreme heat, most of Australia had drier-than-average conditions throughout the year which led to devastating bushfires.

Speaking about extreme weather events in 2013 Jarraud said, “the Philippines is reeling from the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), the most powerful tropical cyclone ever to hit the country and one of the most intense ever recorded anywhere. It is still struggling to recover from Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) one year ago. Although individual tropical cyclones cannot be directly attributed to climate change, higher sea levels are already making coastal populations more vulnerable to storm surges. We saw this with tragic consequences in the Philippines”. He added that, although the relationship between climate change and the frequency of tropical cyclones is a matter of much research, it is expected that their impact will be more intense.

Negotiators are also being encouraged to take heed of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest report which explains that the energy sector is directly responsible for ⅔ of the greenhouse gasses that are driving the changes to our atmosphere and oceans outlined by the WMO and showcased by real life events in the Philippines. If leaders fail to take urgent, concrete steps to phase out greenhouse gas emission the IEA suggests that the world could be heading for a disastrous 6C of global warming this century. The IEA tell policy-makers and climate negotiators that decisions their governments make right now can make a tremendous difference to how much more carbon we emit for years to come. They emphasise the opportunity that we have today to boost support for renewable energy and energy efficiency while cutting subsidies to fossil fuel producers which rose to a whopping $544 billion in 2012.

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Key Quotes

  • “Typhoons, hurricanes and all tropical storms draw their vast energy from the warmth of the sea. We know sea-surface temperatures are warming pretty much around the planet, so that’s a pretty direct influence of climate change on the nature of the storm.” – Will Steffen, director of the Australian National University (ANU) climate change institute
  • “The unfolding human tragedy caused by super-Typhoon Haiyan will only be captured in future reports. The Global Climate Risk Index 2014 tells the story of a country constantly battered by climate-related catastrophes… Our results are really a wake-up call to ramp up international climate policy and to better manage weather-related disasters. The year 2015 represents a major milestone, which needs to deliver a new climate agreement, and the international disaster framework is also up for renewal.” – Sönke Kreft, from Germanwatch
  • “This report by the IEA comes after the horrible typhoon a few days ago in the Philippines which has shocked the world. The typhoon has also cast a pall over the UN climate talks starting in Warsaw, highlighting the urgent need to shift the world’s energy system towards clean renewables and energy efficiency to combat climate change.” – Samantha Smith, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative
  • “WWF strongly supports the IEA view that changing the energy sector – which is responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions – is the most important action to take. But we can’t have our cake and eat it and the IEA is being too positive about new energy sources like shale gas. As the IEA themselves recognise, we need to leave more than two thirds of all existing fossil fuels underground to have a decent chance to avoid overstepping the threshold to dangerous levels of climate change. We need vision and leadership from world leaders on this issue – starting now in Warsaw.” – Dr Stephan Singer, Director of Global Energy Policy at WWF

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