The preliminary State of the Global Climate 2022 study outlines the increasingly dramatic signs of the climate emergency, including a doubling of sea-level rise since 1993 to a new record high this year; and evidence of unprecedented glacier melt in the European Alps.
The full 2022 report is due to be released in spring 2023, but the preliminary study was launched ahead of COP27, the UN climate change conference, to raise awareness of the sheer scale of the issues that leaders need to address if they don’t want to have any hope of getting the climate crisis under control.
“The greater the warming, the worse the impact,” said WMO chief Petter Taalas, who presented the report at an event in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the venue for this year’s conference. “We have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now the lower 1.5 degrees of the Paris climate agreement are hardly within reach. For many glaciers it is already too late and the melting will continue for hundreds if not thousands of yearswith major implications for water security”.
Critical conditions in all parts of the world
The report is a dizzying catalog of worrying climate events against a backdrop of record levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – the three main greenhouse gases contributing to global warming – currently estimated at about 1.15 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Average thickness loss of between three and over four meters was recorded in the Alps, while in Switzerland all snow melted during the summer season for the first time in recorded history; Since the beginning of the century, the volume of glacial ice in the country has decreased by more than a third.
Increasing global ice melt has caused sea levels to rise at rapidly increasing rates over the past 30 years. The rate of warming of the oceans has been exceptionally high over the past two decades; Heat waves at sea are becoming more frequent and rates of warming are expected to continue in the future.
The study describes the effects of both drought and excessive rainfall. Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are facing crop failures and food insecurity due to another season of below-average rainfall, while more than a third of Pakistan was flooded in July and August as a result of record-breaking rains, displacing nearly eight million people.
The southern African region was battered by a series of cyclones over a two-month period earlier in the year, with Madagascar hitting hardest with torrential rain and devastating flooding, and in September, Hurricane Ian caused extensive damage and fatalities in Cuba and southwest Florida.
Large parts of Europe have been repeatedly hit by extreme heat: the United Kingdom set a new national record on July 19 when the temperature rose above 40 °C for the first time. This was accompanied by a prolonged and damaging drought and wildfires.
Early warning for everyone
In a statement released Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the WMO report as a “chronicle of climate chaos,” detailing the catastrophic speed of climate change that is destroying life and livelihoods on every continent.
Given the inevitability of prolonged climate shocks and extreme weather events around the world, Mr Guterres will launch an action plan at COP27 to achieve early warning for everyone over the next five years.
The UN chief explained that early warning systems are necessary to protect people and communities everywhere. “We must respond to the planet’s distress signal with action, ambitious and credible climate action,” he argued. “COP27 must be the place – and now must be the time”