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News about Climate Change and our Planet

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Seven disasters have cost the US $19 billion in 2023: NOAA

Each disaster caused damages of over a billion dollars; only 2017 and 2020 had more disasters in this timeframe

A weather phenomena called bomb cyclone caused widespread flooding and damage in Northern California. Photo: iStock A weather phenomena called bomb cyclone caused widespread flooding and damage in Northern California. Photo: iStock

The first four months of 2023 have seen seven disasters in the United States that cost the country over a billion dollars, according to the latest analysis by the federal department National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Many parts of the United States have also reported a ‘remarkable warmth’ so far, with some states recording their warmest January-April period, said NOAA’s recent US climate report by National Centers for Environmental Information. 

Read more: Mocha: Most models predict storm will strike Myanmar. Is the country prepared?

The US noted five severe weather events, a northeastern winter storm / cold wave and a California flooding event to date. The total cost of these events exceeded $19 billion and resulted in 97 direct and indirect fatalities.

Only 2017 and 2020 had more disasters during this timeframe, with eight events recorded in January-April, the NOAA said. The record number of total disasters in a year in the US is 22, set in 2020, according to NOAA data. 

The billion-dollar disaster events in the US this year were: 

  • California flooding, January-March, $3.5 billion
  • Northeastern winter storm / cold wave, February 2-5, $1.5 billion
  • Two South and Eastern severe weather outbreaks, March 2-3 and March 24-26, $6.4 billion
  • Central tornado and Eastern severe weather outbreak, March 31-April 1, $4.3 billion
  • Central and Eastern severe weather, April 4-6, $2.2 billion
  • Central and Southern severe weather, April 15, $1 billion

Billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the US through April 2023

This US map is plotted with seven billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that occurred in the first four months of 2023. The locations for the extreme weather events are approximate. Source: NOAA

It’s also been a record warm year for seven states and among the top 10 warmest for another 21 states. The average US temperature for the year to date was 40.9 degrees F or 4.94 degrees Celsius. This is about 1.8°F above average, or about a degree C warmer. 

Read more: April 2023 records great variations in temperatures globally: Copernicus

The US isn’t the only country seeing record warmth in some locations. April was the fourth warmest on record globally, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said. Spain, Portugal and Morocco recorded their highest-ever April temperatures

The nation also set a record this year for the most tornadoes from January-March at 466. A reduction in tornado activity in April put 2023 at the fourth most tornadoes on record for the year’s first four months.

The average precipitation for the first four months of 2023 was also higher than usual, at 10.22 inches or 25.96 centimetres. This is 1.88 cm above normal. 

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WMO report shows 2015 Paris Agreement failed to deliver, fossil fuel treaty needed to complement it

State of the Global Climate report proves there have not been many climate actions post the 2015 agreement

The last eight years, 2015-2022, have consecutively been the warmest years on record globally, according to the recent State of the Global Climate 2022 report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released in Geneva. 

Incidentally, the Paris Agreement that serves as the fulcrum of ongoing global negotiation on climate change — signed by about 200 countries agreeing to cut emissions — was inked in 2015.

The situation could have been far worse if the La Nina weather event had not occurred in the past three years, which has a cooling effect on the weather system, the report pointed out.

Read more: 2022 saw record-breaking weather events despite 3-year run of La Niña: State of the Global Climate report

Not much has happened since the 2015 Paris Agreement, said K J Ramesh, former director general of IMD told this reporter on April 30, 2023.

“Even the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report report suggested that neither nationally determined contributions (NDC) nor the disaster risk reduction and climate risk management plans are in place to combat climate-induced extreme weather phenomena,” said Ramesh.

Globally updated NDCs to meet the 2 degrees Celsius target, forget the 1.5°C one, are yet not in front of us, Ramesh further observed, adding, “There is an urgent need to evolve mechanisms to address climate action deficit at national and sub-national scale”. 

“It is evident that the Paris Agreement has not been able to equitably phase out fossil fuels predominantly responsible for the climate crisis,” observed Harjeet Singh, head of the global political strategy of Climate Action Network International.

We need a new global framework in the form of a fossil fuel treaty to complement the 2015 agreement. This can drive green transition through international cooperation, Singh said.

The outcomes of the latest WMO report vindicate what civil society has all along been complaining about, climate experts have pointed out. Most industrialised and emission-belching countries have not been following through on their commitments and carrying out their responsibilities.

The United Nations accepted the allegation. “We have the tools, the knowledge, and the solutions. But we must pick up the pace. We need accelerated climate action with deeper, faster emissions cuts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C,” observed UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Guterres, in response to the report, supported the need to undertake massively scaled-up investments in adaptation and resilience, particularly for the most vulnerable countries and communities who have done the least to cause the crisis.

Read more: State of the Global Climate report: 58% of ocean suffered at least one marine heatwave event in 2022

Tumbling climate records

A series of climate records fell over in 2022, the report showed. 

  • Global mean temperature rising: The global mean temperature in 2022 was 1.15°C, ranging from 1.02°C to 1.28°C above the 1850–1900 average. This was the highest on record for the past eight years. The value is about 0.2°C higher than the statistic before 2015. The pre-industrialisation era is considered a benchmark as there was no significant anthropogenic emission at the time.
  • Record melting of Antarctica ice: Sea ice in Antarctica dropped to an all-time low, 1.92 million square kilometres, on February 25, 2022. This was almost a million sq km below the mean of the last three decades till 2020. 
  • Greenhouse gases surged: The levels of three major greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide — continued to increase in 2022. The data shows that growth rates of all three gases have increased around 20 per cent compared to 2011-15 levels.
  • Sea level rise doubled: Global mean sea level continued to rise in 2022. It has doubled to 4.62 millimetres per year during 2013–2022 from 2.27 mm recorded in the first decade of the satellite record (1993–2002). The rate of increase quickened after 2015. Ocean heat content, which measures this gain in energy, reached a new observed record.
  • Record thinning of glaciers: Long-term observational data is available for glaciers, which were found to have thinned over 1.3 metres between October 2021 and October 2022. The loss is much larger than before. The cumulative thickness loss since 1970 amounts to almost 30 metres.
  • More than half of the oceans saw marine heatwaves in 2022:  Despite continuing La Nina conditions, 58 per cent of the ocean surface experienced at least one marine heatwave during 2022. 
  • Heatwaves killed 15,000 in Europe: Record-breaking heatwaves affected China and Europe during the summer, with excess deaths associated with the heat in Europe exceeding 15000. Casualties were reported across Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Portugal.
  • 1,600 suffered deaths from weather extremes in India: India suffered from significant flooding at various stages during monsoon, particularly in the northeast in June, with over 700 deaths reported from flooding and landslides and a further 900 from lightning.

Other crises piggyback on climate

“The WMO annual report has once again brought focus on how climate change continued to increase its ambit in 2022, right from mountain peaks to ocean depths,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Tallas, during the release of the report.

Read more: Climate change worsened extreme weather events in 2022: State of the Global Climate report

Droughts, floods and heatwaves affected communities on every continent, including India, and cost many billions of dollars, he added. The secretary-general also admitted that almost a hundred countries do not have adequate weather services in place. 

Tallas, however, pointed out that “collaboration amongst UN agencies has proven to be very effective in addressing humanitarian impacts induced by extreme weather and climate events, especially in reducing associated mortality and economic losses.”

The report also highlighted the combined impact of climatic drivers with pandemic pressure, as well as conflicts across the world.

“Rising undernourishment has been exacerbated by the compounded effects of hydrometeorological hazards and COVID-19, as well as of protracted conflicts and violence,” read the report.

“Throughout the year, hazardous climate and weather-related events drove new population displacement and worsened conditions for many of the 95 million people already living in displacement at the beginning of the year,” it further said. 

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