2017 was second or third warmest year, behind 2016, says UN

Average surface temperatures in 2017 were 1.1 degree Celsius (2.0 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, according to a UN report. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 January 2018
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2017 was second or third warmest year, behind 2016, says UN

OSLO: Last year was the second or third warmest on record behind 2016, and the hottest without an extra dose of heat caused by an El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean, the United Nations said on Thursday.
Average surface temperatures in 2017 were 1.1 degree Celsius (2.0 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, creeping toward a 1.5C (2.7F) ceiling set as the most ambitious limit for global warming by almost 200 nations under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Last year was indistinguishable, so far, from 2015 as the second or third warmest behind 2016, making 2017 “the warmest year without an El Niño,” the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
Temperatures in both 2016 and 2015 were lifted by an El Niño, a natural event which can disrupt weather patterns worldwide every few years and releases heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere.
“When even the ‘colder’ years are rewriting the warmest year record books, we know we have a problem,” said Professor Dave Reay, chair in carbon management at the University of Edinburgh.
Seventeen of the warmest 18 years since records began in the 19th century have now happened since 2000, confirming that ever more greenhouse gases are driving up temperatures, the WMO said.
Among extreme weather events last year, the Caribbean and the United States suffered a battering from hurricanes, the Arctic ended 2017 with the least sea ice for mid-winter and tropical coral reefs suffered from high water temperatures.
“Arctic warmth has been especially pronounced and this will have profound and long-lasting repercussions on sea levels, and on weather patterns in other parts of the world,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Talaas said in a statement.
The findings, which match a projection by the WMO in November, now have full-year data including from NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Britain’s Met Office with the University of East Anglia.
In the United States alone, weather and climate-related disasters cost the United States a record $306 billion in 2017, especially western wildfires and hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma, NOAA said last week.
The 2015 Paris agreement, which seeks to shift the world economy from fossil fuels this century, aims to limit temperatures to “well below” a rise of 2C above pre-industrial times while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5C.
US President Donald Trump, who doubts climate change is caused by man-made emissions, plans to quit the Paris accord.
A leaked draft of a UN scientific report shows that warming is on track to breach the 1.5C goal set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement by mid-century, unless governments make unprecedented economic shifts from fossil fuels. (Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Catherine Evans)


Saudi Arabia in the crosshairs as cyber-raids target Gulf

More than 90 percent of malware is distributed by email with hackers seeking to trick users with fake invoices and other scams. (Shutterstock)
Updated 15 February 2019
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Saudi Arabia in the crosshairs as cyber-raids target Gulf

  • Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk after an “energy shock” in these three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019
  • Criminal phishing attacks rising sharply, cybersecurity experts warn

RIYADH: Online phishing attacks are on the rise with experts warning of increasing numbers of cyber-raids targeting Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
Phishing is a type of fraud where criminals target online victims, using deception to acquire users’ credentials, ranging from passwords to credit card and bank account details, and other financially sensitive information.
Cybersecurity experts say the numbers of attacks worldwide have risen dramatically, increasing from over 2 million in the first two weeks of February last year to more than 4.3 million in the same period this year.
Mohammed Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University (KSU), told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia, due to its strong position in political, social and economic spheres, has been a key target for cyber-intrusions by state and nonstate actors aiming to compromise its national security.
“Various types of malware and scams, especially phishing, are used to target critical information infrastructure, which serve as the backbone of the economy,” he said.
More than 90 percent of malware is distributed by email with hackers seeking to trick users with fake invoices and other scams, said Khan, who is also the founder and CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, a Washington-based cybersecurity think tank.
“Computer users in Saudi Arabia have been confronted with more than 30 million phishing emails in recent years,” he said.
Khan said that awareness, training and “cyber-hygiene” were important to protect users and organizations from phishing scams.
KSU has developed a pioneering cybersecurity awareness product, “Rawam,” which helps organizations train employees to deal with malicious hacking, malware, ransomware, phishing and cyberattacks.
The bilingual tool has been used to train 100,000 staff in 40 different organizations, he said.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) last month warned of the growing likelihood of cyberattacks in the Gulf, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar particularly vulnerable.
Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk after an “energy shock” in these three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019, released ahead of the annual forum in Davos.
Cybersecurity experts from the Kaspersky Lab, a multinational digital security provider, detected a sharp increase in phishing activities on the eve of the Valentine’s Day.
The overall number of user attempts to visit fraudulent websites detected and blocked by Kaspersky Lab in the first half of February exceeded 4.3 million.
“The spike offers a reminder that we should be cautious when surfing the web, even if we are just buying flowers for our loved one,” said Andrey Kostin, a senior web content analyst.