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Climate chief: How coronavirus shows us we can beat global warming


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Climate chief: How coronavirus shows us we can beat global warming

Forget the naysayers: what we must do to combat climate change is far less drastic than coronavirus measures, says World Meteorological Organization head Petteri Taalas Humans 27 May 2020 By Graham Lawton Tomasz MajewskiYOU might say the body Petteri Taalas heads determines the weather on world climate action. At the very least, it takes its…

Climate chief: How coronavirus shows us we can beat global warming

Forget the naysayers: what we must do to combat climate change is far less drastic than coronavirus measures, says World Meteorological Organization head Petteri Taalas



Humans



27 May 2020

By Graham Lawton

New Scientist Default Image

Tomasz Majewski

YOU might say the body Petteri Taalas heads determines the weather on world climate action. At the very least, it takes its temperature. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, is the United Nations specialised agency on weather, climate and water resources. It co-founded the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the clearing house for scientific research on global warming, and runs observing systems that follow what is happening to temperature, precipitation, storms, sea level rise, glaciers, snow and ice cover and greenhouse gas emissions across the planet.

The WMO has just produced its latest report, The Global Climate in 2015-2019. It comes a few short months after Taalas, the group’s secretary general, found himself in the news for purportedly questioning the focus on the need for robust international action on climate change.

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Graham Lawton: What did your report find about the state of the world’s climate?

Petteri Taalas: So far, we have seen 1 degree [Celsius] of warming. During the past 20 years, we have seen the 19 warmest years on record. Last year was the second-warmest year since 1850 [when consistent records begin].

We have, again, been breaking records in greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Of those, carbon dioxide is the most important. It has contributed two-thirds of the warming so far and its life in the atmosphere is several hundred years. Recently, we have been observing concentrations of the order of 415 parts per million; 400 ppm was once regarded as a critical level.

We have areas of the world where drought has become more frequent, including the …

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