Climate change can seem like a distant problem, with little relevancy to our daily lives. But an unconventional public awareness campaign aims to change that — by imagining what a typical weather forecast might look like in the year 2050 as the effects of global warming become more pronounced.
Ahead of the high-level UN Climate Summit in New York on September 23, the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency, is releasing one hypothetical weathercast per day on its YouTube channel.
The first, a teaser for the overall effort, was released on Monday, starring high-profile television meteorologists from around the world — including Sam Champion, The Weather Channel’s star morning show anchor, as well as broadcasters in Denmark, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Brazil and the Philippines, among other countries.
About a half-dozen climate reports released during the past year from UN scientists, U.S. government agencies and other institutions have warned that the impacts of global warming are already more severe than initially expected. The rapidly worsening effects include heat waves, the melting of polar ice sheets and the related sea level rise.
According to a WMO press release, the video reports detail conditions including relentless and dangerous heat waves, long-lasting severe drought conditions, and hurricanes that cause extensive coastal flooding due to sea level rise, among other global warming impacts.
The year 2050 was selected as the half-way point toward a much warmer world. Some climate change projections show that on our current course, the climate will warm by an average of 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.
“The weather reports are potential scenarios compatible with the most up-to-date climate science,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release. “They paint a compelling picture of what life could be like on a warmer planet.”
The WMO is launching this effort now in the run-up to the summit in New York, which is meant to catalyze governments to work toward a new climate change agreement before the end of negotiations in Paris next year.
“I would like to thank these weathermen and women for volunteering their time and their skill to communicate to millions of people the reality we are all facing by 2050 if climate change is left unaddressed,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said. “I am sure their films will inspire everyone of the absolute necessity of a meaningful, universal new agreement in Paris in 2015.”
Even before negotiations start, divisions between countries are clear. The U.S. is said to be pursuing a non-binding accord between nations, under which each country could set its own emissions reduction targets. That would get around the U.S. Congress, which would likely vote down any treaty that had legally binding requirements.
Other nations, from France to the developing world, are seeking a more traditionally binding legal agreement.