Global warming makes 2014 likely to be hottest on record

Lima forum hears the WMO stress that ‘there is no standstill in global warming’

This year is on track to be the hottest year on record, or at least one of the top three, according to a provisional statement released at the UN climate conference in Lima by the World Meteorological Organisation.

WMO deputy secretary-general Jeremiah Lengoasa said the projection was based on worldwide meteorological observations from January to the end of October that confirmed the general warming trend.

Global surface temperature in 2014 was about 0.57 degrees above the average of 14 degrees for the 1961-1990 “reference period”, and 0.09 degrees above the average for the past 10 years (2004-2013).

Contrary to “hiatus” claims made by climate change deniers, the WMO stressed that “there is no standstill in global warming”, noting that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record had occurred in the 21st century.


Flanked by UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, Mr Lengoasa told a press briefing that much of the additional heat was ending up in the oceans, where temperatures in 2014 were warmer than ever. He also highlighted this year's heatwaves in South America and Australia as well as droughts in Brazil, China and the western US, and severe flooding in Bosnia, Britain, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

“Nature is not waiting. We are seeing extreme events,” Mr Lengoasa said, adding that publication of the WMO’s provisional statement was “bringing the current state of knowledge to bear on the negotiations”.

Policy vs science

Ms Figueres said “policy must follow science”. This meant greenhouse gas emissions needed to peak within the next 10 years, and she believed the Lima conference was working towards this goal. However, it is clear there are major divisions over the negotiations, which are intended to lay the groundwork for a universal agreement, due to be concluded in Paris at the end of 2015.

With explicit support from China and India, the Like Minded Developing Countries group – which claims to represent 3.5 billion people worldwide – has criticised a “lack of transparency” in the UN process.

“We want to reach an outcome here in Lima and then in Paris that will be equitable and allows us all to work together to solve the climate crisis. We can only do that if the process is open and transparent.”

It complained the process was being driven by co-chairs Artur Runge-Metzger and Kishan Kumarsingh, rather than by direct negotiations between parties. "We will not accept being made, due to a mismanaged process, to press around each other in an undemocratic, non-inclusive and non-transparent 'huddle' at the last hours and minutes just to finalise a decision." Speaking on behalf of the group, Cuba said: "We will not accept a situation in which we are forced to consider on a take-it-or-leave-it basis an outcome text that we have not negotiated upon, whether in Lima or Paris."

Stumbling block

It will be up to ministers from the 194 countries represented at the Lima conference to resolve this impasse when they arrive next week. Among them will be Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, attending his first UN climate gathering.

Meanwhile, the widows of four Ashéninka indigenous leaders killed by bandits last September spoke for the first time in Lima about what had happened and used the occasion to demand title to the forests their husbands fought to protect.

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor