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How La Niña and El Niño Shape Global Climate: Immediate Shifts and Long-Term Impacts

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Discover how the World Weather Organization predicts a shift from El Niño to La Niña, and why climate change continues to pose a significant threat. Learn about the immediate and long-term impacts of these phenomena on global temperatures and economies.

Climate Change: The Dual Impact of La Niña and El Niño

The World Weather Organization (WMO) recently predicted the imminent end of the El Niño weather phenomenon. Originating from a warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, El Niño has been a significant driver of elevated temperatures globally, contributing to extreme weather conditions over the years. With its peak recorded in December 2023, this phenomenon has resulted in some of the highest global average temperatures since industrialization. However, its end does not signal relief from the ongoing threat of climate change.

Replacing El Niño, La Niña is expected to emerge between August and November, with an estimated 70% probability according to the WMO. Unlike El Niño, La Niña is characterized by the cooling of upper water layers in the tropical eastern Pacific, potentially bringing cooler temperatures and increased rainfall to regions such as North and Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of East Africa. While the effects of La Niña may alleviate some immediate temperature concerns, they are not expected to be felt significantly in Europe.

Despite the transition from El Niño to La Niña, the overarching issue of climate change remains a critical threat. As Ko Barrett, WMO Deputy Secretary-General, highlights, the Earth will continue to warm due to heat-trapping greenhouse gases, leading to more extreme weather. This ongoing warming trend presents far-reaching consequences, from public health risks due to heatwaves and tropical diseases to severe impacts on agricultural production and infrastructure.

Contributing to this discourse, Théophane Le Méné, Managing Director of EcoTree, emphasized the urgency of climate action. Celebrated annually on June 5 since 1973, World Environment Day serves as a reminder of the immediate and future dangers posed by climate change. Despite heightened awareness, political and economic challenges often push climate issues to the background. This trend is dangerous, given that global warming could drastically alter living conditions and economies worldwide.

Economic projections are equally alarming. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) indicates that a 1°C increase in global temperature could lead to a 12% drop in global GDP within six years. Historical data suggests that since 1960, global warming has already slowed economic growth significantly, with potential losses in global GDP reaching up to 50% by 2100 if current trends continue. Without rapid and coordinated action, the global economy and millions of lives stand to be severely affected.

Le Méné draws parallels to historical precedents where industry leaders drove essential social and economic transformations before state interventions. Modern companies must now take the lead in mitigating climate change. With their vested interest in stabilizing and ensuring long-term sustainability, businesses hold a critical role in driving the change necessary to combat climate change effectively.

  • El Niño and La Niña are natural climate phenomena occurring approximately every two to seven years, impacting global weather patterns significantly. El Niño is associated with warming ocean temperatures and increased global temperatures, often leading to extreme weather events.
  • In contrast, La Niña involves the cooling of ocean temperatures, which can result in cooler air temperatures and increased precipitation in certain regions. Both phenomena highlight the complex interplay between oceanic and atmospheric systems and their broader impact on global climates.
  • Economic repercussions of climate change underscore the urgency for comprehensive climate policies. As global temperatures rise, the associated costs in terms of health, infrastructure, and economic productivity could be staggering.
  • Organizations and businesses have the unique capacity to drive proactive climate action. By adopting sustainable practices and advocating for environmental policies, they can not only mitigate risks but also pave the way for innovative solutions to the climate crisis.
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Refs: | Le Figaro | Merkur |