The past four years have been the hottest on record, and we are seeing the effects

Climate scientist Ed Hawkins uses a color scale to represent the change in annual global temperatures from 1850 to 2017.

Story highlights

  • Despite having La Niña, 2018 was 4th warmest year
  • 20 hottest years have all occurred since 1997
  • Warming is worsening world hunger
  • Unprecedented heat and drought on multiple continents

(CNN)Another day, another alarming report about how climate change is not a future problem but rather one that is having severe effects all over the planet now.

This time, the report comes from the World Meteorological Organization, an intergovernmental organization of 191 national meteorological services, such as the US National Weather Service, the UK Met Office and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
    The past four years have the been the hottest on record, going back to 1850, the report says, with the 20 hottest years on the list all occurring in the past 22 years.
    Global average temperatures from five independent datasets. The chart shows the overall warming trend since the beginning of the last century, accelerating in the past several decades.
    Global temperatures for January through October of this year have been 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average from 1850-1900 (the period before human-emitted greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere to the point at which they began warming the planet).
    2018 was not as hot as the previous three years, owing to the presence of La Niña, a cooling of the tropical waters in the Pacific Ocean that tends to bring down the global temperature; 2015 and 2016 had a strong El Niño that added to the globe's warming trend.
    Global average temperature anomalies for 2018. Notable climate features that are evident in the image include persistent heat over Europe and Northern Africa, a weak La Niña in the Pacific and continued warmth over the Arctic.
    The past five years have been 1.04 degrees Celsius above average, which means we are more than two-thirds of the way to the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2017.
    "These are more than just numbers," World Meteorological Organization Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova said. "Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life."
    Last month, a dire report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's scientific authority on climate change, said we could reach the 1.5 degree mark as soon as 2030 without immediate and unprecedented changes in our lifestyle and energy sources, and it warned of the worsening impacts from heat waves, droughts, sea level rise and food shortages as temperatures climb.
    Thursday's "State of the Climate Report in 2018" from the World Meteorological Organization once again shows that these impacts are here and will only get worse.
    "We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases," Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said, a fact that was proved just Wednesday when