By Countercurrents Collective
The past eight years were the eight hottest ever recorded, says a new UN report.
The report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) indicates: The world is now deep into the climate crisis.
Earth has warmed more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, with roughly half of that increase occurring in the past 30 years, the report said.
Surface water in the ocean — which soaks up more than 90 percent of accumulated heat from human carbon emissions — hit record high temperatures in 2021, warming especially fast during the past 20 years.
The WMO report — Provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 (https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=11359) — said: Internationally agreed 1.5C limit for global heating is now “barely within reach.”
The report sets out how record high greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are driving sea level and ice melting to new highs and supercharging extreme weather from Pakistan to Puerto Rico.
Sea level rise, glacier melt, torrential rains, heat waves — and the deadly disasters they cause — have all accelerated, the WMO said in its report as the COP27 UN Climate Summit opened in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
Nearly 200 nations gathered in Egypt have set their sights on holding the rise in temperatures to 1.5C, a goal some scientists believe is now beyond reach.
The UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has warned that “our planet is on course to reach tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible”.
The report said:
- Marine heat waves were on the rise, with devastating consequences for coral reefs and the half-billion people who depend on them for food and livelihoods.
- Overall, 55 percent of the ocean surface experienced at least one marine heatwave in 2022.
- Driven by melting ice sheets and glaciers, the pace of sea level rise has doubled in the past 30 years, threatening tens of millions in low-lying coastal areas.
- A two-month heatwave in South Asia in March and April bearing the unmistakable fingerprint of man-made warming was followed by floods in Pakistan that left a third of the country under water. At least 1,700 people died, and eight million were displaced.
The WMO estimates that the global average temperature in 2022 will be about 1.15C above the pre-industrial average (1850-1900), meaning every year since 2016 has been one of the warmest on record.
The WMO report said:
- Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are at record levels in the atmosphereas emissions continue. The annual increase in methane, a potent greenhouse gas, was the highest on record.
- The oceans are hotter than ever.
- Records for glacier melting in the Alps were shattered in 2022, with an average of 13ft (4 metres) in height lost.
- Rain – not snow– was recorded on the 3,200m-high summit of the Greenland ice sheet for the first time.
- The Antarctic sea-ice area fell to its lowest level on record, almost 1m km2below the long-term average.
- A series of cyclones that battered southern Africa, whichhit Madagascar hardest with torrential rain.
- Exceptional heatwaves and droughts in the northern hemisphere, with China enduring its longest heatwaveon record, the UK passing 40C for the first time, and European rivers including the Rhine, Loire and Danube falling to critically low levels.
- Hurricane Ian wreaking extensive damage and loss of life in Cuba and Florida.
- In East Africa, rainfall has been below average in four consecutive wet seasons, the longest in 40 years, with 2022 set to deepen the drought.
- With the longest and most intense heatwave on record, China saw the second-driest summer.
- Falling water levels disrupted or threatened commercial river traffic along China’s Yangtze, the Mississippi in the U.S. and several major inland waterways in Europe, which also suffered repeated bouts of sweltering heat.
- Switzerland has lost more than a third of its glacier volume since 2001.
“The greater the warming, the worse the impacts,” said the WMO secretary-general, Prof Petteri Taalas. “We have such high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere now that the lower 1.5C [target] of the Paris Agreement is barely within reach. It’s already too late for many glaciers [and] sea level rise is a long-term and major threat to many millions of coastal dwellers and low-lying states.”
António Guterres said ahead of COP 27: “Emissions are still growing at record levels. That means our planet is on course for reaching tipping point that will make climate chaos irreversible. We need to move from tipping points to turning points for hope.”
A series of recent reports signaled how near the planet is to climate catastrophe, with “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place” and the current level of action set to see no fall in emissions and global temperature rise by a devastating 2.5C.
Rising global heating is making extreme weather more severe and more frequent around the world. The WMO report highlighted the drought in east Africa, where rainfall has been below average for four consecutive seasons, the longest in 40 years. About 19 million people are now suffering a food crisis.
“All too often, those least responsible for climate change suffer most, but even well-prepared societies this year have been ravaged by extremes,” said Prof Taalas.
Highlights of the report:
- Concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – reached record highs in 2021. The annual increase in methane concentration was the highest on record. Real time data from specific locations show levels of the three gases continued to increase in 2022.
- Global mean temperature in 2022 is currently estimated to be 1.15 ± 0.13 °C above the 1850-1900 average. The eight years 2015 to 2022 are likely to be the eight warmest years on record, with 2022 most likely to be 5th or 6th warmest.
- La Niña conditions have continued with short interruptions since late 2020 and are expected to continue through late 2022. This would mark the third consecutive year of La Niña. Such a triple-dip La Niña is unusual and has kept global temperature low for the second year in a row.
- Sea level continued to rise in 2022, reaching a new record high. Since January 2020, global mean sea level has risen by nearly 10mm, approximately 10% of the overall rise in sea level since satellite measurements began in 1993.
- A low winter snowpack in 2021/22 combined with an exceptionally warm summer in Europe led to record glacier mass losses in Switzerland with 6% of the glacier ice volume lost between 2021 and 2022. Between 2001 and 2022 the volume of glacier ice in Switzerland decreased from 77 km3 to 49 km3, a decline of more than a third.
- In east Africa, rainfall has been below average in four consecutive wet seasons, the longest sequence in 40 years with early indications that the current season could also be drier than average. Across the region, under the effects of the drought and other shocks, an estimated 18.4 to 19.3 million people have faced food Crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity before June 2022.
- Record breaking rain in July and August led to extensive flooding in Pakistan. At least 33 million people affected by the flood.
- Record breaking heatwaves affected China and Europe during the summer coupled with exceptionally dry conditions in places.
- The southern Africa region has been battered by a series of cyclones over two months, leading to a surge in the need for protection and shelter for hundreds of thousands of affected persons.
The State of the Global Climate in 2022 is produced on an annual basis, complementing the most recent long assessment cycle provided by the sixth IPCC Assessment Report. This is the provisional version; the full and final report is expected to be published in March 2023. The report provides an authoritative voice on the current state of the climate using key climate indicators and reporting on extreme events and their impacts. Collecting and analyzing data from these variables takes time, where 2022 data is not yet available, figures from 2021 are provided.
7 November 2022