ABC News Online, Posted Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:06am AEDT
Updated Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:04am AEDT
- Video: 2008 warmest year on record: report (ABC News)
- Audio: 2008 a cooler year in a hot climate (AM)
If your conversations have turned to the weather as they often do at this time of year, then the World Meteorological Organisation's (WMO) annual report may be for you.
In its annual climate statement, it says 2008 is set to go down as the 10th warmest year on record, with global temperatures one third of a degree above the long-term average.
The National Climate Centre says it is a trend that is consistent with climate change.
Climatologist at Australia's National Climate Centre, Blair Trewin, says 2008 has also been the coolest year since 2001.
"At this stage, it looks like Australian temperatures are going to come in somewhere around 0.3, 0.4 of a degree above long-term average," he said.
Dr Trewin says this year shows what it is like to have a cool year in a warmer climate.
"It's worth noting that globally we're talking about the coolest year for seven years, but if this year had happened 15 years ago, I'd be talking about the warmest year on record," he said.
"So take it as an indication of what sort of trend we've seen in the last couple of decades."
As the WMO takes the planet's temperature, Dr Michael Raupach from the CSIRO has been monitoring the data on global greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr Raupach says carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increase by about 3.5 per cent a year, and there are no signs 2008 is any different. And this year the atmosphere contains more than the expected amount of another greenhouse gas.
"Methane had plateaued in its concentration in the atmosphere, over the few years prior to this one, but quite recently it's started to show an increase again," he said.
"Nobody's sure of the reasons."
Dr Raupach says the emissions reduction target set by the Australian Government this week won't prevent dangerous climate change.
"Five per cent is a very tough target," he said.
"It's also, for developed countries, a target that we have to exceed if we are going to meet the challenge of avoiding dangerous climate change.
The Federal Government says Australia will aim to reduce emissions by up to 15 per cent if other countries come on-board.
Dr Raupach says if developing countries don't agree to cuts, Australia should still do more.
"You might ask, 'if you're in a life boat, and the life boat is sinking, do you bail at the average rate of the other passengers or do you bail as fast as you can?' he said.
"That's now the dilemma we're facing."
Should we be bailing faster?
"My hope is, and this is a personal hope, that we can meet and exceed this target. I think we need to exceed the target if we're going to be where we need to be," he said.
-Based on a report by Simon Santow for AM, December 17.