STORY: State Of Climate Report
TRT: 4 mins 26s
SOURCE: UNTV CH
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 18 May 2021 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Latest climate data from 2021 shows records broken in several key indicators
Records in four out of seven key climate indicators were broken last year, UN climate scientists said on Wednesday, as the UN Secretary-General renewed his call for governments everywhere to end their reliance on fossil fuels “before we incinerate our only home”.
The four indicators in which records were set in 2021 – greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification – “are another clear sign that human activities are causing planetary-scale changes on land, in the ocean, and in the atmosphere, with harmful and long-lasting ramifications for sustainable development and ecosystems”, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
Echoing the UN agency’s concerns, which are contained in its flagship climate report released annually in the spring, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the WMO press conference in Geneva via video message that “sea level rise, ocean heat, greenhouse gas concentrations and ocean acidification, set alarming new records in 2021”.
He added: “I will give you the bottom line: the global energy system is broken and bringing us ever closer to climate catastrophe…We must end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the renewable energy transition before we incinerate our only home.”
The latest WMO data also indicates that the world’s most vulnerable countries and communities have borne the brunt of galloping climate change, said Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action and Just Transition: “These impacts are unevenly distributed and if you’re living in Central America, South America, Central, East or West Africa, South Asia or in a Small Island Developing State, you’re 15 times more likely to die from climate-related impact or a climate-related weather extreme.”
Highlighting some of the most worrying climate data from last year, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas noted that surface temperature records had reached an “all-time high” in Europe, with 48.8 degrees Celsius recorded in Sicily last summer, and also in western Canada, which recorded 49.6C, while Spain and Turkey saw similarly sweltering temperatures.
Records were also smashed in main greenhouse gas concentrations in 2021, Professor Taalas continued, referring to carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide concentrations were particularly striking, he added: “We haven’t seen any improvement despite of the lockdowns caused by COVID in 2020, so the concentrations continue growing.”
Ocean temperatures also saw records broken, which is worrying because “we now have right now a record amount of heat stored in the oceans and 90 per cent of the excess heat that we have produced to the planet, they are stored in ocean”, the WMO chief continued.
He added: “We have broken record in the sea level rise; it used to be about two millimetres a year 20 years ago but recently we have seen 4.5 millimetres per year, sea level rise which is a record so far.”
Amid growing concerns over rising global hunger linked to the COVID-19 pandemic’s socio-economic impact, and the ongoing war in Ukraine prompted by the Russian invasion on 24 February, Professor Taalas explained that climate factors had also contributed to the fact that an estimated 800 million people went hungry last year, “and 300 million of them are living in Africa”.
The WMO chief added: “So we have more people suffering of hunger, this component coming from climate change, there’s a component coming from this COVID crisis, and there’s a high risk now because of the war in Ukraine that we will see major hunger problems.”
It is not just developing countries that have been impacted by the planet’s climate crisis, Professor Taalas explained: “Last year we saw several disasters, the most expensive disaster was Hurricane Aida which was hitting United States, with $75 billion losses, we also saw this in China, India, Germany and Belgium were related to flooding events, so those are also possible in developed countries.”
According to WMO’s report, the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. Last year was “only” one of the seven warmest because of a La Niña event at the start and end of the year, which provided a temporary cooling effect, with the average global temperature about 1.1C above the pre-industrial level.
Regardless of this temporary reprieve, scientists are no doubt that the long-term trend is for rising temperatures, whose impact can already be seen on coral bleaching and other less visible areas.
“The problem is that not only the climate is changing but also the ecosystems associated with the earth system are also completely changing,” said Omar Baddour, Head, Climate Monitoring Division, WMO. “For instance the biological life in the oceans, species are being extinct because of this warming of the ocean and acidification.”