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2014 Possibly Warmest Year Recorded; Politics Affecting Climate Change Views

Preliminary estimates of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) revealed that 2014 is on its way to becoming the warmest year recorded.

The WMO said that this is mostly because of the “record high global sea surface temperatures” seen to possibly continue above normal till the yearend, as indicated in the provisional statement by the WMO on the Status of the Global Climate in 2014.

Global average air temperature over sea and land surface from January to October was said to be around 0.57° Centigrade (C) or 1.03 Fahrenheit (F) above the standard of 14.00°C or 57.2 °F for years 1961-1990 reference period, and 0.09°C or 0.16 °F above the standard for years 2004-2013.

WMO said if the same trend persists in the months of November and December, this year will be considered the warmest, ahead of years 2010, 2005, and 1998, confirming the latent long-term warming trend.

“The provisional information for 2014 means that fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

“There is no standstill in global warming,” he added.

Along with several other factors, high sea temperatures also were said to contribute to extremely heavy rainfall and floods in several countries as well as extreme droughts in several others.

WMO’s provisional statement said it was especially warm in Europe, much of Africa, eastern Eurasia, Western North America, and in the large areas of the western and southern Australia and South America.

Heat waves were experienced in Argentina, Australia, and South Africa in January.

Remarkable cold waves were also reported during winter in US, in August for Australia, and in October for Russia.

In the eastern tropical Pacific, sea surface temperatures reached El Niño levels.

The United Kingdom was affected by twelve major Atlantic storms in the winter of 2013-2014. The winter in UK was also recorded as the wettest so far.

Destructive floods in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina affected over two million people in May.

Heavy rains brought severe flooding in northern Pakistan, northern Bangladesh, and India that affected millions of people in the months of August and September.

Torrential rains also were experienced in northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and southeast of the US, bringing major flash flooding in April.

Severe droughts occurred in portions of Yellow River basin and the Huaihe River basin as well as in the southern area of Northeast China, after precipitation in these areas didn’t reach half of the summer average.

Large parts of Western US also endured drought in the middle of November, while Canada had dry conditions in the beginning of the year.

“What we saw in 2014 is consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. Record-breaking heat combined with torrential rainfall and floods destroyed livelihoods and ruined lives. What is particularly unusual and alarming this year are the high temperatures of vast areas of the ocean surface, including in the northern hemisphere,” Jarraud said.

He added that record-high emissions of greenhouse gases and accompanying atmospheric concentrations are putting the world “to a much more uncertain and inhospitable future.”

Jarraud, however, assured that the agency and its members will continue to enhance its services and forecasts to help the public cope with extreme climate and weather conditions becoming more common and damaging.

The UN agency further said it’s necessary to note that the differences in rankings of the warmest years are only a matter of a few hundredths of a degree, as well as the different data sets display somewhat different rankings.

The WMO’s provisional statement was released during the 20th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to inform the annual negotiations on climate change currently happening in Lima, Peru from December 1-12.

Final figures and updates of the WMO report for 2014 will be available sometime in March 2015.

Said UN agency also updated its acclaimed series of Weather Reports for the Future showing weather scenarios in 2050 with the Fifth Assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change as its basis, as co-sponsored by the WMO and UNEP.

New reports added are intended for Spain, France, Norway, Peru, Canada, and Vietnam, displaying a gripping picture of possible life on a warmer planet.

Climate Finance Flows

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said that the risks of extreme weather events and its impacts on humanity increase yearly as the climate changes.

“Fortunately our political climate is changing too with evidence that governments, supported by investors, business and cities are moving towards a meaningful, universal climate agreement in Paris 2015 — an agreement that keeps a global temperature rise below 2 degrees C by putting in place the pathways to a deep de-carbonisation of the world’s economy and climate neutrality or ‘net zero’ in the second half of the century,” she said in a statement.

According to the 2014 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows, hundreds of billions of dollars of finance for climate action may be running around the world annually.

For 2011-2012, climate finance was recorded at US$650 billion, but seen to be likely higher.

Funds coming from developed to developing countries were between US$35 and US$50 billion yearly, with significant shares of resources coming from multilateral development banks, climate-related Official Development Assistance, and other official flows directed to public institutions.

Although dedicated multilateral climate funding, which includes UNFCCC funds, stood for small shares over the same period, these are seen to increase with the latest pledges of almost US$10 billion to Green Climate Fund.

The UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance prepared the assessment, which includes their recommendations and a summary, as well as a technical report from various experts.

The assessment received input from many experts and contributing organizations that gather data on the flows of climate finance.

It was said to be the first of assessment reports that combined data and information on financial flows backing up emission reductions and adaptation in countries and through international support.

It was also a significant contribution by the said committee because it improved clarity and transparency on climate finance flows, which includes information about the international support given to developing countries.

“Finance will be a crucial key for achieving the internationally-agreed goal of keeping a global temperature rise under 2 degrees C and sparing people and the planet from dangerous climate change,” Figueres said.

“Understanding how much is flowing from public and private sources, how much is leveraging further investments and how much is getting to vulnerable countries and communities including for adaptation is not easy, but vital for ensuring we are adequately financing a global transformation,” she said.

The finance committee’s co-chairs Stefan Schwager and Diann Black Layne also said: “This first biennial assessment represents a milestone of the work of the Standing Committee on Finance. It is an important information tool for Parties to the Convention that provides a picture of climate finance flows and how they relate to climate actions, including the objectives of the Convention.”

“Going forward, the Standing Committee on Finance will contribute further to improvements in the information on climate finance flows, including through collaborations with data collectors and aggregators,” they said. 

Photo by Lorela Sandoval
Tacloban in mud and flood after Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. (Photo by Lorela Sandoval)

Global Climate Risk Index 2015

Just this week, an organization in Germany advocating for social, political, and economic framework disclosed that the Philippines tops the list of countries greatly affected by extreme weather occurrences last year.

Germanwatch revealed this in its yearly Global Climate Risk Index 2015.

“We all remember the images of the catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan, which wiped out entire regions and took the lives of more than 6000,” study author Sönke Kreft said in a statement.

“It was the most severe tropical storm ever to make landfall. Last year, at the beginning of the Climate Summit in Warsaw, many people were struggling there for their lives. Climate change must be controlled so that the future will not bring more of these record-breaking catastrophes,” he added.

Next to the Philippines are Cambodia and India.

In India, the second biggest cyclone in its history struck in 2013, leaving a devastating impact to its people.

Germanwatch’s report covered the years 1994 t0 2013, presenting major impacts of storms, heat waves, and floodings often dipping on developing countries.

Within the period covered, over 530,000 deaths were recorded, brought by over 15,000 extreme weather incidents. There were almost US$2.2 trillion recorded damages as well.

But Honduras, Myanmar, and Haiti were the most affected for the period of 1994 to 2013.

Germanwatch said that nations will implement the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in March, asking nations to modify their policies for the prevention of natural disasters.

In September, decision from the Sustainable Development Goals will present new development normative for the decades to come.

A new agreement on climate issues will be discussed in Paris in December, which is intended to control emissions and help people and nations beset by climate change.

Crucial decisions are anticipated In Lima, where the current convention on climate change is ongoing, specifically in terms of assisting countries handle damage and loss brought by climate change.

“We hope that the results of the Index further increase the awareness for climate protection and adaptation in this region. The Climate Summit in Lima can spur action in these countries and facilitate international support,” said Kreft, also the team Leader for International Climate Policy at Germanwatch.

He added that the Index’s result is “a stark reminder to the international community that we have to step up ambition and action in order to prevent the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable.”

Politics affecting climate change views

Sandra Marquart-Pyatt, a sociologist at Michigan State University, meanwhile, said that “politics has the most important effect on perceptions of climate change,” not severe climate changes, based on their recent study.

Study’s lead investigator Marquart-Pyatt said they didn’t find the notion that the ever-changing climate patterns themselves are shaping the perceptions of people in the US.

Political orientation is instead the most influential factor in influencing people’s perceptions about the issue, be it short or long term, she said.

She also said that the results give the public the “pulse of the nation.”

Said to be the most wide-ranging evidence so far, they conducted the study by running over a hundred computer models and combining more than a decade of survey answers on climate change views, along with 50 years of regional climate data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Other earlier studies claimed that temperature patterns influence people’s opinions on global warming. Researchers, however, said not one of those measured the climatic conditions as broadly as the recent investigation.

Though advocates hope that the experiences of changing climate will convince eventually the public of the gravity and reality of the issue, recent findings of Marquart-Pyatt and fellow researchers seem to go against such possibility.

The study said there’s “little grounds for optimism that public concern about climate change will be driven by future climatic conditions.”