The new head of the United Nations meteorological agency says the rate of global warming is accelerating

The new head of the United Nations meteorological agency says the rate of global warming is accelerating

BALTIMORE – The new head of the World Meteorological Organization says the rate of human-caused climate change is accelerating and that rising temperatures have led to widespread Arctic cold in North America and Europe, affecting two issues that divide climate scientists. .

In her first interview since taking office last month, World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Celeste Saulo told The Associated Press that although her agency said last year the temperature was 1.48 degrees Celsius (2.66 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels However, the world must “keep going with its ambition of trying not to reach 1.5°C (2.7°F) in the long term, not just one year.” “We have a really worrying trend.” “The trend is very clear.”

Saulo said the world needs to act quickly, but she said there are strong economic forces preventing that from happening.

Slow efforts to curb climate change “are not about diplomacy, I think it’s about power and economics,” Saulo said during a break during the American Meteorological Society meeting in Baltimore. “We are lagging behind our goals because of our interests – economic interests – that go far beyond what our common sense, our diplomats and our scholars suggest.”

Last year, James Hansen, former chief climate scientist at NASA, and others published a study saying that not only is the climate getting warmer, but the rate of change is accelerating. A second study found that the heat content of the oceans, where much of Earth’s trapped energy is stored, is rising at a faster rate than before. Other scientists disagreed, saying the warming, fueled by El Niño, was still occurring at the expected rate.

Saulo said that she sees the acceleration that Hansen is talking about, especially based on research conducted by some of the scientific teams affiliated with the Organization (WMO). She said what bothers her is not knowing what this means for the future.

“We’re not there in terms of our scientific understanding of the effects of this acceleration. We don’t fully understand how it will evolve,” Saulo said.

Saulo, who was head of Argentina’s meteorological office, said what worries her most is what is happening at both poles as seas warm, ice melts and society increases in greenhouse gases.

In another area of ​​hot debate among scientists, Saulo said she sees a link between the warming Arctic and sudden but deep cold outbreaks in North America and Europe, often referred to as the polar vortex escaping its natural northern borders. What’s happening, she said, is that the difference between winter temperatures in the Arctic and mid-latitudes is no longer as large as it used to be, leading to frequent changes in the jet stream.

“There is great concern, especially in the Northern Hemisphere because the continental area is exposed and many people live there,” Saulo said.

She added that what is most important is the worsening heat waves.

“Heatwaves are the deadliest extreme events,” Saulo said, adding that the number of deaths is usually an underestimate. She added that heat waves have other side effects on health, fires and air quality.

She said the lack of adequate monitoring and warning systems for floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts, especially in the global south, was another major problem.

“Fifty percent of our population currently does not have early warning systems,” Saulo said. “We need to protect them.”

Saulo is the first woman Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the first from the Americas and only the second from the Global South. This is important, she said, because “I bring my culture and my values, and coming from the Global South, I think we have many things, many ideas to consider. And I think this is an opportunity to introduce those new ideas. Not better, not worse, but different.” “

With what appears to be an accelerating rise in temperatures and an increase in heatwaves and other extreme events such as floods, droughts and storms, taking charge of a global climate and weather agency could be daunting, Saulo said.

“I’m kind of tired, but I think we can do something,” Saulo said. “It’s a combination of exhaustion, but also optimism that there is something we can do and I can do from my position to help our community better prepare for climate change.”

Read more AP climate coverage at http://www.apnews.com/climate-and-environment

Follow Seth Borenstein on XV @borenbears

AP’s climate and environment coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with charities, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas on AP.org.

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