“Renewables are the only path to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities. If we act together, the renewable energy transformation can be the peace project of the 21st century,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in his video message as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released the State of the Global Climate in 2021 report.
Considering the damning findings in the recently released report, Guterres' emphasis on clean energy is understandable. Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification, which are crucial climate change indicators – set new records in 2021.
According to the report, real-time data showed that GHG emissions reported an upward trend despite setbacks from COVID-19. “Greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new global high in 2020, when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) globally, or 149 per cent of the pre-industrial level.”
Ocean heat also reached new highs. “The upper 2000m depth of the ocean continued to warm in 2021 and it is expected that it will continue to warm in the future.”
In 2021, the Ozone hole has also been reported as larger and deeper than 70 per cent of Ozone holes since 1979, reaching a maximum area of 24.8 million km2.
Even though La Niña set in cooling conditions in 2021 which made the year relatively cooler, the report still notes the last 7 years as the warmest on record.
The early onset of heatwaves in South Asia with temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the country only affirm the climate crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its Sixth Assessment Report, had also warned about the intense and frequent occurrences of heatwaves and humid heat stress in South Asia this century.
Yet another study conducted by the UK's Met Office has called India and Pakistan's heatwave “extraordinary in its duration”. It has warned that the heat might build again this week.
The glaciers in Canada and the US Northwest lost record ice mass due to heatwaves and fires in June and July.
WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas, said, “Extreme weather has the most immediate impact on our daily lives. Years of investment in disaster preparedness means that we are better at saving lives, though economic losses are soaring. But much more needs to be done, as we are seeing with the drought emergency unfolding in the Horn of Africa, the recent deadly flooding in South Africa and the extreme heat in India and Pakistan. Early Warning Systems are critically required for climate adaptation, and yet these are only available in less than half of WMO’s Members. We are committed to making early warnings reach everyone in the next five years, as requested by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres."
With respect to droughts, the report says “Eastern Africa is facing the very real prospect that the rains will fail for a fourth consecutive season, placing Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalis into a drought of a length not experienced in the last 40 years. Humanitarian agencies are warning of devastating impacts on people and livelihoods in the region.”
The document also highlights the issue of food security. Underlining the cumulative effects of conflict, extreme weather events, economic setbacks, and COVID-19 pandemic, it said that worsening humanitarian crises in 2021 have put a growing number of countries at risk of famine. “Of the total number of undernourished people in 2020, more than half live in Asia (418 million) and a third in Africa (282 million).”
The WMO State of the Global Climate report will be used as an official document at COP27 slated to be held in Egypt later this year.
The report has been released just ahead of the World Economic Forum 2022 Annual Meeting, in Davos. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Karnataka Chief Minister M Basavaraj S Bommai, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan are expected to attend the WEF besides several eminent CEOs from the country.