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November 28, 2012

UN Report: Record Heat in 2012

by Selah Hennessy

2012 is on its way to being one of the hottest years on record, according to the United Nations. The World Meteorological Organization says climate change is taking place "before our eyes" with worldwide extreme weather conditions.

The U.N. weather agency says that despite the cooling effect of La Nina in the Pacific Ocean in early 2012, the period from January to October was the ninth warmest since records began in 1850. And every year from 2001 through to 2011 has been among the warmest on record, the agency said.

World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said one of the agency's major concerns is the melting of Arctic sea ice.

"The melting of the ice was much bigger than in previous years, it is the record melting of the Arctic ice," said Jarraud.

A WMO report says nearly 12 million square kilometers of Arctic ice melted between March and September 2012. It said satellite images from September showed the Arctic sea ice covering 18 percent less than the previous record low five years ago.

"So definitely the message here is that the trend is not only continuing, but accelerating with respect to the melting of the Arctic ice and this is linked to the change in the global temperature," said Jarraud.

Tuesday, the German environment group Germanwatch published its Global Climate Risk Index, analyzing how countries are affected by extreme weather events like storms, heat waves and drought.

It said that in 2011, Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, El Salvador and the Philippines suffered the most from the impact of extreme weather conditions.
 
An Index author, Sven Harmeling, said it is clear that developing countries are hit the hardest, but the impacts are global.

"If you look at the overall figures for the last 20 years, we have had more than 500,000 people that died, we have had, including events also in the developed countries, over $2.5 trillion of damages as a summary from extreme weather events," said Harmeling.

The reports have been published as a U.N. Conference on Climate Change takes place in Doha, Qatar. The meeting, which lasts about two weeks, is aimed at forming an international agreement on curbing industrial emissions. It would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which is soon to expire. Delegates from nearly 200 countries are taking part.