World feels effect of hottest year on record
THIS year is on target to be the warmest on record, a global conservation group said yesterday as 2005 saw record-breaking drought in the Amazon basin and sea-ice levels in the western US and Arctic lower than ever.
Caribbean water temperature also reached a record high this year, according to the report from the WWF. Its authors said: "We're on track for the hottest year ever, surpassing the previous high of 1998."
The group, using its findings to lobby the world's environment ministers meeting in Canada this week, said that further evidence of climate change, global warming and weather disruption was the record number of storms severe enough to be named during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.
More storms than ever before made landfall in the US this year, said WWF, with Hurricane Katrina causing more than $100 billion damage.
The message is "Act now", said the WWF. It warned that governments meeting in Montreal must make the Kyoto agreement on climate change, initiated in 1997 but largely ignored by the US and criticised for failing to meet objectives, work. "They have to start now on the next round of carbon dioxide emission reductions, to keep the process on track after the current commitment period ends in 2012."
Otherwise, WWF claimed, a "window of opportunity" would be lost to keep the average world temperature less than 2C above pre-industrial levels: "Failure to do that would be a key tipping point for the world's ecosystems."
Britain's Meteorological Office was more cautious about the WWF claim for 2005. A spokesman said: "It is unlikely this will be the hottest year on record. NASA also made that prediction about a month ago, but with only a few weeks of the year to go, we would now need a warmer Siberian winter to raise the average global temperature."
That was now unlikely, he suggested. Although 2005 would be about number three on the all-time list, there was "very little difference" among the top five.
The Met Office agreed that the overall global temperature trend was upwards, with the world likely to see more intense weather disruption, storms and floods and more severe fluctuations.
The spokesman said: "In the UK, this has been the third warmest year since 1914, but now we are expecting a particularly severe winter."
The WWF warning came only days after a report by Britain's National Oceanography Centre that part of the oceanic system that drives the Gulf Stream, the warm current that flows from the Caribbean towards northern Europe, has slowed by almost one-third since 1992 because of global warming. As the Gulf Stream flows, it releases huge amounts of heat, creating the warm winds that keep Europe's climate relatively mild. Without that heat, Europe would have a more hostile climate and Britain, on the same latitude as Labrador in Canada, could see winter temperatures plummet to minus 30C.
That is a cold-future warning scientists are now debating. On the more imminent threat of global temperature rise, Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said last night: "In spite of warnings about cold spells, November in Scotland was yet another month with temperatures above average. 2005 is clearly on course to be another exceptional year."
In spite of that, he said, the UK government appeared to be supporting president George Bush and undermining negotiations at the Montreal climate conference.
Compulsory carbon dioxide reduction targets are essential, said Dr Dixon: "Voluntary agreements won't work, and to have a deal on climate change that doesn't limit pollution is like a peace deal that lets everyone keep shooting."
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Monday 20 May 2013
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