Past decade is 'almost certain' to be warmest on record, UN agency says

Key Points
  • The World Meteorological Organization's report paints a stark picture.
  • This year is now "on course" to be the second or third warmest on record, it says. 
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The past decade is set to be the warmest on record, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Tuesday.

According to its "Provisional Statement of the State of the Climate 2019," this year is "on course" to be the second or third warmest on record, with the global average temperature around 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial era.

Overall, the report, which was released during the COP25 climate summit in Madrid, paints a stark picture.

Ocean heat is found to be at record levels, while sea water is now 26% more acidic than it was at the beginning of the industrial period, according to the WMO.

Globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 407.8 parts per million last year, a record, and are set to increase this year.

When it comes to sea level rise, this has sped up since satellite measurements began in 1993, the report states, due to ice sheets melting in Greenland and Antarctica.

"If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human wellbeing," Petteri Taalas, the WMO's secretary-general, said in a statement. "We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target," Taalas added.

The Paris Agreement was reached at COP21 in 2015. As well as a commitment to make sure global warming stayed "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, world leaders at Paris also agreed to "pursue efforts" to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The WMO's report comes after the UN secretary general warned that "the point of no-return is no longer over the horizon."

In remarks delivered Sunday, Antonio Guterres emphasized that his message was "one of hope, not of despair" but sought to highlight the urgency of the problems faced by the planet.

"We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions," he said.

"In the crucial 12 months ahead, it is essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments — particularly from the main emitters — to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050," he went on to state.

Information used in the WMO's report is sourced from a wide range of sources and organizations, including regional climate centers, national meteorological and hydrological services, the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Atmosphere Watch and Global Cryosphere Watch. It also uses information from other United Nations agencies.