This story includes details on the impacts of climate change that may be difficult for some readers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this crisis situation here is a list of resources on how to cope with fears and feelings about the scope and pace of the climate crisis.
A 1.5°C climate future is only “barely within reach,” the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned yesterday in an early draft of its latest State of the Global Climate report, issued as negotiations got under way at the COP 27 climate summit in Egypt.
COP 27 began “with a hard reality check and a sharp reminder that climate change is turning more hostile with every passing year,” writes the Delhi-based online publication Down to Earth.
That reality check came in the form of the WMO’s provisional report, sharing early findings on the state of the Earth’s climate in 2022. Release of the final data is scheduled for April.
The report concludes that the last eight years are “on track to be the eight warmest on record, fuelled by ever-rising greenhouse gas concentrations and accumulated heat.”
This year’s global mean temperature is estimated at about 1.15°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. And keeping the average temperature rise under 1.5°C “is barely within reach (as) we have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now.”
The WMO adds that ocean heat was at record levels in 2021, “with the warming rate particularly high in the past 20 years.” The rate of sea level rise has doubled in the last 30 years, with 10% of the overall rise happening in the last 2.5 years alone, a staggering 10-millimetre rise since January 2020. Heating and rising are related, with 40% of sea level rise owing to the thermal expansion of sea water.
At the current rate, sea levels will rise by 0.5 to one metre per century, Taalas warned, posing a “long-term and major threat to many millions of coastal dwellers and low-lying states.”
The WMO also reported “initial indications of a record-shattering melt” in the European Alps, with Switzerland losing 6% of its glacier ice volume between 2021 and 2022, and no snow surviving the summer season to then produce a new layer of virgin ice.
“It’s already too late for many glaciers, and the melting will continue for hundreds if not thousands of years, with major implications for water security,” the UN organization added.
The WMO put South Asia at the “top of the chart” for climate crisis suffering in 2022, with India and Pakistan enduring particularly harrowing extreme weather events, from exceptional pre-monsoon heat to equally exceptional monsoon flooding. This year’s flooding in Pakistan was 181% above normal in July and 243% above normal in August.
In much of the northern hemisphere, drought and heat were off the charts in 2022. East Africa staggered through yet another year of famine-inducing drought, swathes of Europe were furnace-like in the summer months, and China endured “the most extensive and long-lasting heat wave since national records began.”