Consequences of climate change

Climate disasters cost 320 billion $ in 2017: a record. And this is only the beginning.

The year 2017 was the most costly year on record for extreme weather and climate incidents. And the situation is not getting any better: "2018 started with disastrous situations" in this area, the UN said Thursday in Geneva.
In its Statement on the State of the World Climate in 2017 issued before World Meteorological Day on Friday 23 March, WMO is compiling data from many institutions. As of early January, total disaster losses in 2017 were estimated at more than $320 billion.
Uhe very active hurricane season in the North Atlantic, widespread monsoon flooding on the Indian subcontinent and persistent severe drought in parts of East Africa have all contributed to making 2017 the most expensive year in history for extreme weather and climate events.
The WMO Statement on the State of the World Climate in 2017 highlights the magnitude of the consequences of extreme weather events for economic development, food security, health and migration. Based on data compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and with input from National Meteorological Services and United Nations system partners, the publication provides detailed information to support international efforts in disaster reduction, sustainable development and climate change.


2017 is one of the three warmest years on record, while it is also the warmest Niño-free year on record. Other indicators of climate change are also examined, such as rising carbon dioxide concentrations, rising sea levels, melting sea ice, and ocean acidification and warming.
The average global surface temperature in 2017 is about 1.1°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Globally, the average temperature for the period 2013-2017 is the highest five-year average on record. The nine warmest years on record were all after 2004 and the five warmest years were in 2009.
"2018 began as 2017 ended, with deadly weather extremes that were disastrous for livelihoods. The Arctic recorded abnormally high temperatures, while the densely populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere were struggling with freezing cold and devastating winter storms. Australia and Argentina were affected by intense heat waves, drought persisted in Kenya and Somalia, and Cape Town, South Africa, faced critical water shortages. "said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
" Since the publication of the first Declaration on the State of the World's Climate in 1993, scientific understanding of the complex functioning of our climate system has advanced rapidly. We can now demonstrate the frequency of extreme weather and climate events, assess the extent to which they are caused by human activities, and determine the correlation between climate change, epidemics and vector-borne diseases. "said Mr. Taalas.

Greenhouse Gases

" Over the past 25 years, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased from 360 to over 400 parts per million (ppm). They will remain above this level for several generations, condemning our planet to inexorable warming and leading to an increase in extreme meteorological, climatic and hydrological phenomena. " he added.
Direct measurements of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere over the last 800,000 years have shown natural fluctuations between 180 and 280 ppm. According to the Declaration, this proves that the current concentration of CO2 (400 ppm) is higher than the natural variability observed over hundreds of thousands of years.

Socio-economic consequences

The year 2017 was particularly rich in disasters with a strong economic impact. The German reinsurance company Munich Re has estimated the total losses resulting from weather and climate-related catastrophes for 2017 at USD 320 billion, the highest annual amount ever (taking inflation into account).
Exacerbated by high sea surface temperatures, the North Atlantic hurricane season was the most costly in U.S. history and set back the economic development of some small Caribbean islands, such as Dominica, by decades. National environmental information centres estimated that the total losses from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria amounted to $265 billion. According to World Bank estimates, the total losses and damages caused by the hurricane to Dominica amounted to $1.3 billion, or 224 % of gross domestic product (GDP).
Vulnerable countries have been hit hard, as shown by a recent study by the International Monetary Fund, which draws attention to the fact that a 1°C increase in temperature would significantly reduce the rate of economic growth in many low-income countries.
The analysis confirms the existence of a statistically significant linear effect of temperature on per capita economic growth. In countries with high average temperatures, a rise in temperature hinders economic activity, while it has the opposite effect in countries with much colder climates.
For the median emerging-market economy, a 1°C increase in the average annual temperature of 22°C reduces growth by 0.9 % in the same year. For a median low-income developing country with an annual average temperature of 25°C, the effect of a 1°C rise in temperature is even more pronounced: growth falls by 1.2 %. Countries whose economies are projected to be significantly affected by a rise in temperature have generated only about 20 % of global GDP in 2016; however, these countries currently account for nearly 60 % of the world's population and are projected to account for more than 75 % of the world's population by the end of the century.
According to the World Health Organization, the global risk of heat-related illness or death has increased steadily since 1980, and about 30 % of the world's population now lives in climatic regions prone to deadly heat waves for at least 20 days a year. The Declaration also provides information on the links between climate and the outbreak of Zika virus disease in the Americas from 2014 to 2016.


In 2016, weather-related disasters resulted in the displacement of 23.5 million people. As in previous years, most of this internal displacement was associated with floods or storms and occurred in the Asia-Pacific region.
Somalia continues to face massive internal displacement due to drought and food insecurity. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registered 892,000 people displaced by drought between November 2016 and December 2017. In the Horn of Africa, a poor rainy season in 2016 was followed by a particularly harsh dry season in January and February 2017 and a poor rainy season from March to May. In Somalia, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), more than half of the agricultural land was affected by drought by June 2017, and herds had lost 40 to 60 % of their numbers since December 2016 as a result of increased mortality and disaster sales.
Floods have affected the agricultural sector, particularly in Asian countries. In May 2017, heavy rains caused widespread flooding and landslides in south-western Sri Lanka. According to FAO and WFP, the negative effects of the floods on crop production have further aggravated the food situation in the already drought-stricken country.


In 2017, sea surface temperature was somewhat lower, on a global average, than in 2015 and 2016, but was still the third highest on record. The ocean heat content, which is used to express the heat contained in the upper layers of the oceans down to a depth of 2,000 metres, reached new peaks in 2017.
According to the Declaration, it appears that the contribution of almost all factors of sea-level rise has increased in recent years, in particular the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and, to a lesser extent, the Antarctic ice sheet.
For the second year in a row, abnormally warm surface waters off the east coast of Australia led to significant coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef.
Part of the Declaration is devoted to ocean acidification, based on information provided by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. Over the past decade, various studies have confirmed that ocean acidification has direct consequences on the health of coral reefs, on the abundance, quality and taste of fish and seafood farmed in aquaculture, and on the survival and calcification of several key organisms. These changes are having an impact on the food chain and the economy of coastal areas, which is increasingly affected.


Throughout 2017, the extent of sea ice was well below the normal extent calculated for the period 1981-2010 in both the Arctic and Antarctic. The seasonal maximum of Arctic sea ice reached the lowest value for a winter maximum since satellite observations began. The seasonal minimum was the eighth smallest, but due to the slow pace of the ice jam, the extent of the pack ice once again showed near-record low values for the month of December.
In Antarctica, the extent of the ice pack remained all year round at or near the lowest levels ever recorded.
From September to December 2017, the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet was close to normal. However, this overall increase in ice mass is only a small exception to the general trend over the past two decades, with the Greenland Ice Sheet having lost about 3,600 billion tonnes of ice since 2002.
The extent of snow cover in the boreal hemisphere was close to or slightly greater than the average for the period 1981-2010 for most of the year.
Source : WMO

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