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“The climate is changing before our eyes,” says the World Meteorological Organization

We’re out of time. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guteres does not wish to play down his remarks in the face of the once again alarming observation on the state of the climate. ” It’s only a matter of time before another year becomes the hottest on record added Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization.

The report, the result of the contribution of dozens of experts from Member States, shows in particular that in 2021, the average temperature on the planet was higher by about 1.11°C (± 0.13°C) above its value preindustrial.

Climate change is also closely observed by WMO due to
extreme weather conditions recorded each year. The weather is precisely the daily translation of climate change. ” The climate is changing right before our eyes confirmed the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas.

With this in mind, the WMO has chosen four key indicators of climate change:

The concentration of greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new global high in 2020, when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 413.2 parts per million (PPM) worldwide, or 149% of pre-industrial levels.

What are PPMs?

PPM, for “part per million” is the unit of measurement used to calculate the rate of pollution in the air and more generally in the environment. The PPM makes it possible to know how many molecules of pollutant one finds on a million molecules of air.

They continued to rise in 2021 and early 2022. And the lockdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic had no impact on greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, according to Taalas. As a reminder, the Earth returns part of the solar rays that it receives, towards the atmosphere. Unlike oxygen and nitrogen, greenhouse gases absorb and send them back to Earth, which greatly contributes to its warming.

In 2021, the global average annual temperature is about 1.11°C (±0.13) above the pre-industrial average for the period 1850-1900, while remaining below that seen in recent years. The reason ? Two episodes of La Niña, a climatic phenomenon that results in a decrease in surface temperature of the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean, occurred at the beginning and at the end of the year.

See also: COP26: CO2 emissions return to pre-pandemic levels

The past seven years, from 2015 to 2019, have still been the hottest on record. ” We are now heading for a warming of 2.5 to 3 degrees instead of 1.5, assured Petteri Taalas. Heat trapped by human-made greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come. »

sea ​​level rise

Global mean sea level hit a new record high in 2021, after rising an average of 4.5 mm per year during the period between 2013 and 2021.

This rate is more than twice as high as that recorded between 1993 and 2002, which is mainly explained by the acceleration of the loss of mass undergone by the ice caps. This phenomenon has major consequences for the hundreds of millions of inhabitants of coastal areas and increases vulnerability to tropical cyclones.

For example in Angola, where half of the population lives by the ocean, rising sea temperatures are affecting fish stocks and fisheries. Rates of sea level rise along the tropical and South Atlantic coasts as well as the Indian Ocean are also higher than the global average rate.

In the United States, a latest report announces that sea level rise along the coasts of the United States will average between 25 and 30 centimeters over the next 30 years, or as much as the rise measured during the last 100 years.

The warming of the oceans

Ocean warming is breaking records. In 2021, the ocean continued to warm to a depth of 2,000 meters and this trend is expected to continue. This is’ “an irreversible change on time scales of centuries to millennia“, said WMO.

All datasets indicate that ocean warming has seen a particularly marked increase over the past two decades. Heat penetrates to ever deeper levels.

Much of the ocean surface has experienced at least one “strong” heat wave at some point in 2021. The ocean is a key player in climate regulation as it absorbs about 23% of annual CO2 emissions man-made in the atmosphere.

Ocean acidification

The ability to absorb ever-increasing CO2 emissions leads to ocean acidification that threatens organisms and ecosystem services, and therefore compromises food security, tourism and coastal protection. The shallowest corals are unlikely to survive until the end of the century if warming continues unabated said the IPCC when it released its report.

The lower its pH, the less the ocean can absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. According to the IPCC report,it is possible to assert with great certainty that the surface pH value in the open ocean is currently the lowest for at least 26,000 years and that current rates of pH change are reaching levels not seen for at least twenty-six millennia”.

Other alarming figures

– Melting of the glaciers

On average, the planet’s benchmark glaciers have lost 33.5 meters in thickness (ice equivalent) since 1950, with 76% of that melting occurring since 1980.

2021 has been a particularly drastic year for glaciers in Canada and the northwestern United States, with record loss of glacier mass due to heat waves and fires in June and July.

Greenland experienced an exceptional melt event in mid-August and for the first time ever precipitation was recorded at Summit Station, the highest point of the ice sheet, at 3,216 m altitude.

— Climatic disasters

The floods caused economic damage of US$17.7 billion in China’s Henan province, and Western Europe experienced some of the most severe flooding on record in mid-July, with losses over 20 billion dollars in Germany. The human toll was also very heavy.

Hurricane Ida was the most destructive of the season in the North Atlantic, making landfall in Louisiana on August 29 and causing economic losses estimated at $75 billion in the United States.

— Extreme drought

The drought has affected many parts of the world, including the Horn of Africa, Canada, the western United States, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. In subtropical South America, this phenomenon has caused major agricultural losses and disrupted energy production and river transport.

Drought in the Horn of Africa continues to escalate in 2022. East Africa faces the very real possibility of no rains for the fourth consecutive season, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia thus undergoing the longest episode of drought in the last 40 years.

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