No. 1004 - WMO: Still Time to Act on Climate Change

No. 1004 - WMO: Still Time to Act on Climate Change



19 September 2014
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WMO: Still Time to Act on Climate Change
Need for Action on Greenhouse Gases Backed by Scientific Evidence

Geneva, 19 September 2014 (WMO) - There is still a window of opportunity to prevent dangerous climate change and preserve the planet for future generations. But it is closing fast, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which says that the urgent need to cut greenhouse gases is based on overwhelming scientific evidence.

WMO is supporting the Climate Summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on 23 September with a number of initiatives. These underline the need for concerted international action to tame rapid climate change, which may increase temperatures and sea levels to life-threatening levels in the coming decades, and to slow ocean acidification which threatens marine life.

The Summit will serve as a public platform for government, finance, business and civil society leaders to catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions and mobilize political will for an ambitious global agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.

Well-known 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 in the future.

"Time is not on our side,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “With every year that passes, greenhouse gas concentrations reach higher and higher levels. The more we wait, the more difficult, the more expensive, the more challenging it will be to adapt to climate change caused by human activities."

“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. This is exactly what we are doing with climate change,” said Mr Jarraud.

“Action is still possible. It will require bold decisions, courageous decisions,” said Mr Jarraud.


Record Greenhouse Gas Levels

Ahead of the summit, WMO released its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. This showed that atmospheric concentrations of the main long-lived greenhouse gases reached new records in 2013. It also showed that carbon dioxide levels grew at the fastest rate since the present network of international observations started in 1984.

Preliminary data indicated that this was possibly related to reduced CO2 uptake by the earth’s biosphere. Further research will be conducted into analyzing this further.

“This is a worrying signal,“ said Mr 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.


Weather Reports for the Future

During the summit, WMO will be displaying its acclaimed series of imaginary Weather Reports for the Future, depicting likely local impacts of global climate change. The year 2050 was selected as half-way point to the end of the 21st century, by which time average global temperatures could rise more than 4°C (7.2°F) if greenhouse gas emissions from human activities continue to increase at  the current rate or faster.

The reports were prepared by well-known 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 which cause entire regions to dry up; 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.

The weather reports draw on climate change scenarios based on continued high emissions levels. All the presenters highlight that recent weather disasters give a foretaste of the future.

“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. Let’s work together to make our societies safer and more resilient. Please join me in taking action on climate change,” said Mr Ban Ki-moon in a message on the videos.


Thematic session on climate science

During the Climate Summit, WMO, UNESCO and UNITAR will organize a special event where political and science leaders will explore how science can contribute to policy making.

Action on climate change will be most effective when informed by science. But climate science is not static, and new discoveries are continually being made. More creative approaches are needed for communicating advances in climate science in ways that educate, motivate and empower people to take action.

This special thematic session will showcase how climate science can best support ambitious action on climate change. It will explore the key findings of climate science that society can rely on with confidence; how to ensure that climate policies are informed by the best available knowledge; and how climate change science can be communicated effectively to policymakers as well as to the general public. The session will be webcast. 


Promoting UN climate action

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud was one of 18 experts who took part in a U.N. series “Why I Care About Climate Change."

WMO played a lead role in producing a booklet for Summit participants entitled “How the United Nations System Supports Ambitious Action on Climate Change.” The booklet was written and published by some 40 UN specialized agencies, funds, programmes and other bodies that collaborate through the UN’s Working Group on Climate Change.

On the web:(here)

Weather Reports From the Future are available here and hosted here.

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin is available here

WMO Global Atmosphere Watch programme

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO)

Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC)

International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project

Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change 5th Assessment Report



Weather, Climate and Water

For more information: Please contact

Michael Williams in New York + 41 79 406 47 30 or mwilliams(at) or

Clare Nullis in Geneva at +41 22 730 84 78 or +41 79 709 13 97 or cnullis{at)


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