Climate change and global temperature spikes could hit a new peak in the next five years and will not be averted by a temporary drop in emissions caused by the coronavirus.
That’s the suggestion from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which suggests further increases in global temperature are likely, especially over high latitudes and land regions with slower ocean warming, particularly in the North Atlantic and Southern Pacific.
The survey has also shown the levels of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere rose to new records, with a growth rate 18% higher in 2015-2019 than the previous five years.
Scientists also say Covid-19 may result in a temporary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but it is not a substitute for sustained climate action – it will make it more difficult to tackle weather, climate and water-related hazards which are becoming more acute because of climate change.
Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, said: “We need to flatten both the pandemic and climate change curves. Whilst Covid-19 has caused a severe international health and economic crisis, failure to tackle climate change may threaten human well-being, ecosystems and economies for centuries.
“Extreme weather has increased, and it will not go away because of the coronavirus. On the contrary, the pandemic exacerbates the challenge of evacuating people and keeping them safe from tropical cyclones, as we saw with Category-5 strength Harold in the South Pacific.
“And there is a risk that over-stretched health systems may not be able to cope with an additional burden of patients due to, for example, heatwaves.”