The world is getting warmer, that much is certain, despite all the uncertainties that climate research brings with it.
Humanity has known for some time that the rise in temperatures requires sacrifices. Recently, for example, the Okjökull Glacier in Iceland was buried with a memorial service. The once mighty ice sheets had shrunk to a thickness of only 15 meters - too little to push forward. A similar action was now in Switzerland.
Here, too, environmental organizations have celebrated a demonstrative farewell ceremony for the Pizol Glacier. Around 250 people attended the event about a hundred kilometers southeast of Zurich. The glacier has shrunk so much in recent years that it will be surveyed for the last time this year. "There is not much left of the glacier, and every time you come, it's worse," glaciologist Matthias Huss said on a recent visit.
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Researchers had published a study in April, after which the Alps could be almost completely ice-free in 80 years. However, actions like today's on the Pizol glacier are obviously more about actionism than science.
But new numbers underpin that they may be necessary. According to a report by the World Weather Organization (WMO) published on Sunday, the years from 2015 to 2019 were the hottest five-year period since measurements began about 150 years ago. This is evident from preliminary calculations.
The average temperature worldwide during this period was 1.1 degrees above that of pre-industrial times. Compared with the previous five-year period, the increase was 0.2 degrees.
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To keep the average temperature rise below 2 degrees by 2100, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases would have to be tripled, said WMO Director-General Petteri Taalas. In order to limit the warming to 1,5 degrees, a quintuple is necessary. The two-degree target scientists hold for the least, to avert a dangerous disruption of the world's climate. Four years ago, in the Paris World Climate Agreement, states had agreed to aim for a 1.5-degree limit.
"All the signals and consequences of climate change - sea-level rise, ice loss, extreme weather - have become stronger," the WMO reported. It is urgently necessary to set ambitious climate goals now. "Sea level rise is accelerating and we fear that a sharp decline in ice in Antarctica and Greenland will exacerbate development," Taalas said.
In the report, the WMO brings together new scientific findings on the dramatic decline in ice, sea-level rise, acidification of the oceans and the climatic causes of extreme heat waves, forest fires and floods.