Records broken for four key climate change indicators in 2021, warns WMO report

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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released its annual State of the Global Climate report, stressing that new records set by four key climate change indicators are yet another clear sign that human activities are causing planetary-scale changes on land, in the ocean and in the atmosphere.

Alongside record greenhouse gas concentrations, sea-level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification measurements, extreme weather led to hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses and took a heavy toll on human lives, as well as triggering shocks for food and water security and displacement that have been accentuated in 2022.

The WMO State of the Global Climate in 2021 report confirmed that the past seven years have been the warmest on record. 2021 was ‘only’ one of the seven warmest because of a La Niña event at the start and end of the year. This had a temporary cooling effect but did not reverse the overall trend of rising temperatures. The average global temperature in 2021 was about 1.11 (±0.13) °C above the pre-industrial level.

Criticizing “the dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption”, United Nations secretary-general António Guterres used the publication of the WMO flagship report to call for urgent action to grab the “low-hanging fruit” of transforming energy systems away from the “dead end” of fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Guterres proposed five critical actions to jump-start the renewable energy transition. They include greater access to renewable energy technology and supplies, a tripling of private and public investments in renewables and an end to subsidies on fossil fuels, which amount to roughly US$11m per minute.

“Renewables are the only path to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities. If we act together, the renewable energy transformation can be the peace project of the 21st century,” said Guterres.

The world must act in this decade to prevent ever-worsening climate impacts and keep the temperature increase to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, he said.

Prof. Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general, said, “It is just a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record. Our climate is changing before our eyes. The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come. Sea-level rise, ocean heat and acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless means to remove carbon from the atmosphere are invented. Some glaciers have reached the point of no return and this will have long-term repercussions in a world in which more than two billion people already experience water stress.

“Extreme weather has the most immediate impact on our daily lives. Years of investment in disaster preparedness mean that we are better at saving lives, though economic losses are soaring. But much more needs to be done, as we are seeing with the drought emergency unfolding in the Horn of Africa, the recent deadly flooding in South Africa and the extreme heat in India and Pakistan. Early warning systems are critically required for climate adaptation, yet these are only available in less than half of WMO’s members. We are committed to making early warnings reach everyone in the next five years, as requested by the United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres,” said Taalas.

The WMO State of the Global Climate report complements the IPCC Sixth Assessment report, which includes data up to 2019. The new WMO report is accompanied by a story map and provides information and practical examples for policymakers on how the climate change indicators outlined in the IPCC report played out during recent years globally and how the associated implications for extremes have been felt at national and regional levels in 2021.

The WMO State of the Global Climate report will be used as an official document for the UN Climate Change negotiations known as COP 27, which will take place in Egypt later this year.

To view the complete report, click here.

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, editor-in-chief

Dan first joined UKi Media & Events in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As editor, he now produces content for Meteorological Technology International, unearthing the latest technological advances and research methods for the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest meteorological news, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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