July 3, 2013
UN Report Warns Of Hottest Decade In Recorded History
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Regardless of whether it was caused by human activity or not, the United Nations is reporting the last decade was the warmest on record in both hemispheres for both land and sea.
According to an official report from the UNs World Meteorological Organization (WMO), land and sea temperatures averaged 58 degrees Fahrenheit - compared to the long term average of 57.2 F based on data going back to 1881.
The report also noted the temperature increases of the past 10 years are unprecedented as about 94 percent of countries have recorded their warmest decade ever.
"The decadal rate of increase between 1991-2000 and 2001-2010 was unprecedented," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. "Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far-reaching implications for our environment and our oceans."
During the first decade of the 21st century, the average global temperature increased by 0.37 F over the 1990s' average, the report said. Before that, warming rose by 0.25 F from the 1980s to the 1990s.
In discussing the report with the AFP, Jarraud pushed back against the theory put forward by some climate change skeptics that says global warming has been leveling off in recent years.
"There's no plateau. If you filter out the very short-term variability, the last decade was the warmest by a significant margin," Jarraud asserted.
Some skeptics point out recent harsh winters or the absence of high temperatures so far this summer in Europe and the northern United States as evidence there is no such thing as global warming.
"When you look at climate variability and climate change, it's very important not to focus on a particular part of the world or to concentrate on a particular year," Jarraud rebutted.
The WMO also looked at the human toll taken by heat waves or extreme weather, which many connect to climate change. The organization's report said more than 370,000 deaths were related to extreme weather in the first ten years of this century, an increase of 20 percent over the previous decade.
"When the question is asked, is it due to climate change, our traditional answer has been in most cases we cannot tell you, we cannot attribute a single event to climate change, because these events result from many complex interactions," said Jarraud.
"However, because of climate change, we expect these things to become more frequent, or more intense. Change has increased the probability," he said.
According to the report, heat wave-related deaths jumped to 136,000 during the last decade - up from fewer than 6,000 in the 1990s. The WMO blamed most of those deaths on the European heat wave in 2003 and a Russian heat wave in 2010.
Floods were the most common extreme weather-related event during the last decade, including a 2010 flood in Pakistan that killed around 2,000 people and affected 20 million, the report said.
The WMO said better warning systems and increased preparedness help to push down flood related fatalities last decade, which dropped by 43 percent.