Data released by the United Nations World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has made it absolutely clear that the past four years were officially the four warmest on record, and the world community cannot afford to give the crucial observation a cold shoulder.
The analysis shows that the global average surface temperature in 2018 was approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) baseline, which is a huge cause for concern.
The pattern indicates trouble. The year 2019 has picked up where 2018 left off, with Australia experiencing its warmest January on record. Intense heat waves are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change.
Similar reports on climate trends released by the US space agency NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have also confirmed that last year was the fourth warmest in modern times.
Sea ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic both marked the second lowest ever observed. There were 14 weather-related disasters costing one billion dollars or more.
Adding to the worry, researchers have stated that billions of tonnes of meltwater flowing into the world’s oceans from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could boost extreme weather and destabilise regional climate within a matter of decades.
These melting giants, especially the one atop Greenland, are poised to further weaken the ocean currents that move cold water south along the Atlantic Ocean floor while pushing tropical waters northward closer to the surface, they have reported in the journal ‘Nature’.
Known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, this liquid conveyor belt plays a crucial role in Earth’s climate system and helps ensures the relative warmth of the Northern Hemisphere.
It’s not that people are totally ignorant of what’s happening on the climate front. The fact that thousands of students skipped classes on Thursday and marched past the Dutch parliament calling for more ambitious climate policies in the Netherlands indicates growing awareness among youngsters about the need to protect and nurture the planet.
The noisy but peaceful demonstration by Dutch students follows similar marches in recent weeks in neighbouring Belgium that also have drawn thousands of protesters.
The urgent need for action to rein in planetary warming should never be underestimated.
If the dangerous and extreme cold in North America, record high heat and wildfires in Australia, heavy rains in parts of South America, and heavy snow on the Alps and Himalayas do not serve as a wake-up call for action, what else would!