Flagship UN study shows accelerating climate change on land, sea and in the atmosphere

by UN News


A wide-ranging United Nations climate report shows that climate change is having a major effect on all aspects of the environment, as well as on the health and wellbeing of the global population.

  • The report, The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019, which is led by the UN weather agency WMO, contains data from an extensive network of partners.
  • It documents physical signs of climate change – such as increasing land and ocean heat, accelerating sea-level rise and melting ice and the effects on socio-economic development, human health, migration and displacement, food security, and land and marine ecosystems.
  • UN chief António Guterres warned that the world is currently “way off track meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for
  • the report confirms that 2019 was the second warmest year on record, and 2010-2019 was the warmest decade on record. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850.
  • WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that there are good signs that we have started moving in the right direction. Last year emissions dropped in developed countries, despite the growing economy, so we have been to show that you can detach economic growth from emission growth. The bad news is that, in the rest of the world, emissions grew last year.
  • Climate impacts outlined in the report:
    • Heat: 2020 has seen the warmest January recorded so far, with many heat and fire records broken around the world
    • Dwindling ice: This winter there has been massive ice loss in the Arctic, Antarctica, and Greenland. Glaciers shrunk yet again, for the 32nd consecutive year.
    • Ocean climate impacts have included ocean heat, rising sea levels, the altering of ocean currents, melting floating ice shelves, and dramatic changes in marine ecosystems. The ocean has seen increased acidification and deoxygenation, with negative impacts on marine life, and the wellbeing of people who depend on ocean ecosystems. 
    • Unprecedented floods and droughts, leading to economic damages (for example, in the US, total economic losses from flooding were estimated at around $20 billion) and rising world hunger with over 820 million people were affected by hunger in 2018. 
    • Millions displaced by climate impacts: Worldwide, some 6.7 million people were displaced from their homes due to natural hazards 
  • Emissions goals: The UN chief called on all countries to demonstrate that emission cuts of 45 percent from 2010 levels are possible this decade, and that net-zero emissions will be achieved by the middle of the century.
  • Four priorities for COP26 were outlined by UN chief António Guterres:
    1. More ambitious national climate plans that will keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels
    2. Strategies to reach net-zero emissions by 2050
    3. A comprehensive program of support for climate adaptation and resilience
    4. Financing for a sustainable, green economy

The Climate Center’s Rapid Decarbonization Campaign sets a goal that by 2025, California will have enacted the bold, accelerated policies required by science to double emissions reductions, accelerate drawdown, and secure resilient communities by 2030.

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One of Antarctica’s fastest-shrinking glaciers just lost an iceberg twice the size of Washington, D.C.

By Brandon Specktor, Live Science


Pine Island Glacier, one of the fastest-shrinking glaciers in Antarctica, broke off chunks of ice in an event known as “calving,” just days after the region hit it’s all-time highest temperature.

  • Calving, the breaking of ice away from the edge of glaciers, has become a nearly annual occurrence for the Pine Island Glacier and the neighboring Thwaites Glacier near the Antarctic Peninsula
  • The icebergs measure more than 130 square miles, double the size of Washington, D.C.
  • When the ice melts, it is believed that the melt will not contribute to large amounts sea level rise since ice at the edge of the glacier was already floating

The Climate Center’s Rapid Decarbonization Campaign addresses the urgency of the climate crisis by setting a timeline in line with the current science.

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Antarctic temperature rises above 20C for first time on record

By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian


Seymore Island along the Antarctic Peninsula reached an all-time high temperature of nearly 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • The high temperature was recorded by Terrantar, a Brazilian government project monitoring climate change impacts throughout Antarctica
  • The increasing temperatures may be due to El Niño weather events and shifts in ocean currents
  • Though there is usually ice melt during the summer months due to temperatures rising, there has been an increase in melt during the winter months

The Climate Center’s Rapid Decarbonization Campaign addresses the urgency of the climate crisis by setting a timeline in line with the current science.

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The Climate Center speakers Amanda Begley and Destiny Rodriguez

Public health, climate impacts, and The Climate Center’s new campaign

As the nexus between public health and climate impacts comes into sharp focus, public health officers are convening to share their challenges and strategies for addressing the climate crisis. On September 26th at the Westin Sacramento, the Health Officer Association of California (HOAC) met for their bi-annual gathering to discuss climate change as a public health emergency.

Perhaps you are asking what exactly is a county health officer? Glad you asked! Every county in the State of California has a public health officer, which gives them an important platform and compelling voice on health issues affecting the entirety of the Golden State.

Kat DeBurgh, MPH, Executive Director, Health Officers Association of California, explains further, “Each county in California has a health officer – a physician who is appointed to have legal public health authority in that jurisdiction. Health officers are required by law to take action as necessary to protect their communities against disease, which is why they must be involved in issues like climate change.”

Climate scientist and The Climate Center board member Carl Mears, Ph.D., started the morning off with his talk, “Introduction to Climate Change,” answering the question: “Is it too late?”

The answer is no, it is not too late, but we must take action now. As Mears stated, “Everything is not fine! But that doesn’t mean we should give up trying to fix it.” And what is the answer to how we confront climate change, as Mears stated in his presentation, “Policy, policy, policy.” Basically, how do you change the rules of the game so the right choice is the easy choice?  The Climate Center is answering that question as we launch a new statewide rapid decarbonization campaign by working to enact the policies required by science and our climate reality. The time is now for bold climate action using the most significant lever we have to initiate change in California: policy.

After Carl Mears’s informative and inspiring talk, I presented on the topic, “Communicating Hope.” I shared lessons learned from the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) strategic framing techniques. NNOCCI works to develop and empirically test ways of adequately explaining scientific and social issues. On the topic of climate change, NNOCCI has queried over 18,000 ordinary people in determining the most effective ways to have a productive and hopeful climate conversation.

The Climate Center’s Community Relations Manager Destiny Rodriguez was on the panel discussing, “Convening Stakeholders.” Destiny works in the Central Valley to bring Community Choice Energy to its residents for rapid decarbonization. She works to build community relationships and brings various stakeholders together. Community Choice Energy has on average 86% less heat-trapping gas in comparison with PG&E. Right now, over ten million Californians benefit from Community Choice Energy. It has mostly been the coastal cities that have gained from this policy. The Climate Center holds the vision that all Californians can benefit from clean energy, not just the coastal cities. Destiny is bringing together different groups in the Central Valley to help communicate the need and benefits of clean energy for their region. 

The fact that the Health Officers of California dedicated their conference to discussing climate change speaks to how pervasive climate change impacts have become in the daily lives of Californians. The event was full of professionals who understand that rapid decarbonization will improve public health outcomes. Now we must show energy policy decision-makers what public health officials already know.