Climate Change

WMO sounds alarm as COP27 gets underway, with 1.5°C target barely within reach

Sea level rise doubled in three decades; South Asia, including India, one of the hardest-hit   

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Sunday 06 November 2022

The 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change kicked off at Sharm-El-Sheikh in Egypt November 6, 2022 with a hard reality check and a sharp reminder that climate change is turning more hostile with every passing year.

The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report was released November 6, almost concurrently with the opening of COP27.

The document said “the past eight years are on track to be the eight warmest on record, fuelled by ever-rising greenhouse gas concentrations and accumulated heat”.

The report also said “the global mean temperature in 2022 is currently estimated to be about 1.15 degrees Celsius (°C) above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average”, with a range of 1.02°C to 1.28°C.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas admitted that keeping the temperature rise within 1.5°C “is barely within reach (as) we have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now”.  

The temperature level of 1.5°C is the lower limit of the 2015 Paris Agreement mandate, with 2°C being the upper one.

The heat is on

The report pointed out that 2022 may be slightly cooler compared to the last few years. But this is an exception and has been caused by a rare phenomenon which is likely to be reversed soon.

“A rare triple-dip cooling La Niña means that 2022 is likely to only be fifth- or sixth-warmest. However, this does not reverse the long-term trend; it is only a matter of time until there is another warmest year on record,” the report stated.

The report estimated the 10-year average for 2013-2022 to be “1.14 [1.02 to 1.27] °C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial baseline”. The comparative figure during 2011-2020 was”1.09°C … as estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report”.

The document noted that ocean heat was at record levels in 2021 (the latest year assessed), with the warming rate particularly high in the past 20 years.

The report also said “the tell-tale signs and impacts of climate change are becoming more dramatic”. Sea level rise has doubled within last three decades since 1993, according to it.

“It has risen by nearly 10 millimetres (mm) since January 2020 to a new record high this year. The past two-and-a-half years alone account for 10 per cent of the overall rise in sea level since satellite measurements started nearly 30 years ago,” the report said.

The report also showed that 2022 took an exceptionally heavy toll on glaciers in the European Alps, with initial indications of a record-shattering melt.

The Greenland ice sheet lost mass for the 26th consecutive year, underlining the consistent trend of warming; and it rained, rather than snowed, there for the first time in September.

“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 sea level rise adds up to half to one metre per century and that is a long-term and major threat to many millions of coastal dwellers and low-lying states,” Taalas added.

Suffering South Asia

South Asia, including India, has been one of the most highly impacted regions in 2022 due to climatic impacts, the report said. WMO has highlighted “selected high impact events” in its report where South Asia topped the chart.

“This section describes a small selection of high-impact events of 2022 and is based on input from WMO Members and UN agencies,” the report said.

WMO has underlined the impact of heatwaves and floods on South Asia. It stated that “the pre-monsoon period was exceptionally hot in India and Pakistan”.

According to the report, Pakistan had its hottest March and hottest April on record and the heat caused a decline in crop yields.

“This (high heat), combined with the banning of wheat exports and restrictions on rice exports in India, are threatening the international food markets and posing risks to countries already affected by shortages of staple foods,” the report stated, hinting towards a wider implication.

“Moreover, Pakistan experienced exceptional flooding during the monsoon season, peaking in late August. July (181 per cent above normal) and August (243 per cent above normal) were each the wettest on record nationally,” the report said. Sindh province, followed by Balochistan, was the hardest-hit.

The document noted that “preliminary satellite data indicated that 75,000 square kilometres, about 9% of Pakistan’s area, was inundated at some stage during August 28 … Some 33 million people were affected, and 7.9 million people were displaced”, with the poor and vulnerable most affected.

“There was also significant flooding in India at various stages during the monsoon season, particularly in the Northeast in June, with over 700 deaths reported during the season from flooding and landslides, and a further 900 from lightning … triggered 663,000 displacements in the Indian state of Assam,” it added.

“In Bangladesh, the worst floods in 20 years have affected some 7.2 million people with 481,000 displacements recorded. In Cox’s Bazar, heavy rains affected nearly 60,000 refugees and triggered secondary displacement,” the WMO report said.

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