The world is set to notch up a new heat record in 2016 after a sizzling 2015 as global warming stokes more floods and rising sea levels, the UN weather agency said on Monday at climate change talks overshadowed by Donald Trump’s election win.
President-elect Trump has called climate change a hoax and a source in his transition team says he is seeking quick ways to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to shift the world economy away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said this year would be the warmest since records began in the late 19th-century, with average surface temperatures 1.2C above pre-industrial times. Sixteen of the 17 hottest years recorded have been in this century.
“Another year. Another record,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement in Marrakesh, Morocco, where almost 200 nations are discussing ways to slow climate change.
The heat, with impacts such as melting Greenland ice and damage to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, was stoked by an El Nino weather event in the Pacific early in the year and by man-made greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels.
“The extra heat from the powerful El Nino event has disappeared. The heat from global warming will continue,” he said. The WMO said it was “very likely” that 2016 would be the hottest, barring a freak chill in coming weeks.
The Paris deal, backed by almost 200 nations including the United States but rejected by Trump, has an overriding goal of limiting the rise in temperatures to well below 2C above pre-industrial times, ideally 1.5C.
Earlier on Monday a scientific report projected that world carbon dioxide emissions were expected to stay flat for the third year in a row in 2016 and that US emissions would fall by 1.7 per cent in 2016, driven by declines in coal consumption.
US President Barack Obama has made fighting climate change a key policy and the United States was the driving force behind the design of the Paris Agreement.
“Because of climate change, the occurrence and impact of extreme events has risen,” Mr Taalas said.
“Once-in-a-generation heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular. Sea-level rise has increased exposure to storm surges associated with tropical cyclones,” he said.
The most damaging weather event in 2016 was Hurricane Matthew, which killed more than 500 people in Haiti, it said. The Yangtze basin in China had its worst summer floods since 1999, killing 310 people and causing an estimated £11bn in damage.
Record daily temperatures were recorded from South Africa to Thailand. Canada had its worst recorded wildfire in May around Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Data from the UN refugee agency said 19.2 million people were displaced by weather, water, climate and hazards such as earthquakes in 2015, more than twice as many as for conflict and violence, it said.
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