The organization is supporting the Climate Summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on 23 September with initiatives that underscore the need for international action to tame rapid climate change.
The Summit will serve as a platform for government, finance, business and civil society leaders to announce plans to reduce emissions and mobilize political will for a global agreement in Paris in December 2015 to limit the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.
Weather presenters, who have prepared a series of Weather Reports for 2050, will accompany the WMO delegation to New York to increase awareness that climate change will mean more intense heat-waves, droughts, floods and more damaging tropical cyclones in many countries.
“Time is not on our side,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a news release. “If we don’t act on climate change, it means we are living at the expense of what we leave to our children. It’s like borrowing money and leaving a huge debt to our children.”
Though averting that scenario is still possible, ‘It will require bold decisions, courageous decisions,” he said.
His comments came after WMO released its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which showed that atmospheric concentrations of the main long-lived greenhouse gases reached record levels last year and that carbon dioxide levels grew at the fastest rate recorded since they began in 1984.
Preliminary data indicated that this was possibly related to reduced CO2 uptake by the earth’s biosphere. “This is a worrying signal,“ said Jarraud. “It might be an alarm bell. We need to find out.”
About one quarter of carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the biosphere, and an additional one quarter by the oceans. The oceans take up about 4 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide per person per day. As a result, the current rate of ocean acidification appears unprecedented at least over the last 300 million years, according to an analysis in the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
“The ocean is the primary driver of the planet’s climate and is cushioning the impact of climate change, but at a heavy price. If global warming is not a strong enough reason to cut CO2 emissions, ocean acidification should be, since its effects are already being felt and will increase for many decades to come, “ said Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which contributed to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
During the summit, WMO will be displaying its series of imaginary Weather Reports for the Future, depicting likely local impacts of global climate change. The year 2050 was selected as the midpoint through the century, when average global temperatures could rise more than 4°C (7.2°F) if greenhouse gas emissions are not stemmed.
The reports were prepared by weather presenters from Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkino Faso, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Japan, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, the United States of America and Zambia.
Scenarios include relentless heat-waves leading to record fatalities; mega-droughts affecting entire regions; disastrous flooding from torrential rains fed by a warmer, moister atmosphere; inundation of coastal cities from far-distant hurricanes fuelled by rising sea-levels; and damage to marine life and coral reefs from ocean acidification.
“Climate change is affecting the weather everywhere. It makes it more extreme and disturbs established patterns. That means more disasters; more uncertainty,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “We can reduce the risks by cutting global greenhouse gas emissions and building low-carbon economies.”