From Dengue To Food Security, Climate Change Affects Everything
Highlights of the Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019 report, released by the World Meteorological Organization on 10 March 2020
Concerned with the deepening climate crisis, the World Meteorological Organization, on 10 March 2020, released its Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019, a multi-agency report aimed at helping policymakers round the world fulfil goal 13 of the United Nation Development Programme: Climate action.
Here, we take a look at some of its key findings.
Australia, India, Japan, and Europe all witnessed record-setting high temperatures in 2019, which adversely affected health and well-being. In Japan, a major heatwave event resulted in over 100 deaths and an additional 18,000 hospitalizations. In France, over 20,000 emergency-room admissions were recorded for heat-related illnesses between June and mid-September. Furthermore, during two summer heatwaves, there were a total of 1,462 excess deaths in the affected regions.
More worryingly, ever-changing climatic conditions have made it easier for the Aedes mosquito species to transmit the dengue virus. The global incidence of dengue has increased exponentially in recent decades, and about half the world’s population is now at risk of infection.
Climate variability and extreme weather events are among the key causes of the recent rise in global hunger. After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again—over 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018. Thirty-three countries were affected by food crises in 2018. Almost all of these countries fell prey to climate variability and weather extremes, in addition to economic shocks and conflicts.
The magnitude of the challenge before the global community—to meet the Zero Hunger target of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—is enormous. The food security situation deteriorated sharply in 2019 in some countries of the Greater Horn of Africa. By late 2019, about 22.2 million people, (6.7 million in Ethiopia, 3.1 million in Kenya, 2.1 million in Somalia, 4.5 million in South Sudan, 5.8 million in the Sudan) were estimated to be severely food insecure, the estimate being only slightly lower than during the severe and prolonged drought in 2016-17.
Floods ravaged the Indian subcontinent during the 2019 monsoon season, which started late but finished with rainfall totals way above the long-term average. More than 2,200 lives were reported to have been lost in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Deoxygenation [the process of removal of oxygen from liquids such as water] is a major threat to ocean ecosystems and the well-being of people dependent on them. Coral reefs, one of the coastline protectors and among the most valuable natural ecosystems, are projected to decline to 10 to 30 per cent of their former cover at 1.5°C [global] warming, and less than 1 per cent at 2°C warming.
2019 recorded a global average temperature 1.1°C above the estimated pre-industrial levels. This was second only to the record set in 2016, when a very strong El Niño event contributed to an increased global mean temperature above the overall warming trend.
In 2019, the oceans experienced, on average, nearly two months of unusually warm temperatures. At least 84 per cent of the oceans experienced at least one marine heatwave.
The rate of sea-level rise has increased over time, mainly due to melting of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica. In 2019, the global mean sea level reached its highest value on the record.
The warming of oceans has altered ocean currents significantly. It’s indirectly changing storm tracks [zones where storms travel driven by prevailing winds] and also melting floating ice shelves. Together with ocean acidification and deoxygenation, ocean warming can cause drastic changes in marine ecosystems.