Global warming is causing weather extremes to become more frequent. Moreover, the 1.5-degree target needed to avoid reaching dangerous tipping points is barely within reach.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has given a preliminary overview of the state of the global climate in a report at the start of the UN World Climate Conference COP27 in Egypt.
Global warming causes temperatures to rise to record levels.
According to the assessment, the past eight years are shaping up to be the warmest on record. The global average temperature was recently estimated to be about 1.15 degrees above the average for the pre-industrial era. While the La Niña weather phenomenon has moderated temperatures somewhat, making 2022 only the fifth or sixth warmest year on record, the report says – it is only a matter of time before a new record warmth year is measured. The weather phenomenon La Niña, which occurs every few years, depresses the global average temperature because it causes the upper water layers of the tropical eastern Pacific to cool unusually strongly.
Weather extremes due to global warming cause high costs
Heat waves, droughts, and floods have affected millions this year and cost billions. By mid-year, up to 19.3 million people had been affected by food insecurity or inadequate access to food due to significantly prolonged droughts in eastern Africa, among other things. Floods in Pakistan killed at least 1,700 people and displaced nearly eight million from their homes.
Global South hardest hit by weather extremes.
Those people in the Global South, who are least responsible for climate change, suffered the most, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said, according to the report. But other regions have also been rocked by extremes this year – such as Europe or southern China due to enormous heat waves and extreme droughts that nearly dried up major rivers, he said.
Many glaciers have already lost to global warming.
The melting of glaciers has picked up tremendous speed this year. In the Alps, average losses of three to four meters of ice thickness were measured, significantly more than in the previous record year of 2003. The Greenland Ice Sheet melted for the 26th year in a row, and rain instead of snow also fell for the first time at the highest point of the ice sheet in August 2021.
In Switzerland, the volume of glaciers decreased by more than a third over the past twenty years. “It’s already too late for many glaciers, and melting will continue for hundreds, if not thousands, of years with huge implications for water supplies,” Taalas said.
Global warming sends sea levels to new record highs.
The rate of sea level rise has doubled since 1993. Since January 2020 alone, sea levels have risen by nearly 10 millimeters to a new record high. The increase over the past two and a half years accounts for ten percent of the total rise over the past 30 years, during which it has been observed using satellite measurements. This acceleration is primarily due to melting ice. For coastal regions and low-lying states, this is a considerable threat.
1.5-degree target “barely within reach.“
Concentrations of the most important greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) – reached a new high in the past calendar year; in the case of methane, the increase was even more significant than ever. Concentrations of all three atmospheric gases continued to rise in the year underway. “We have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the 1.5-degree target is barely within reach,” WMO Secretary-General Taalas holds. He said the higher the global warming, the worse the effects will be.
According to climate researchers, global warming must be stopped at 1.5 degrees to avoid crossing dangerous tipping points and avert the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. The international community has agreed on this goal but is not doing enough to implement it politically.
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