Record levels of greenhouse gases have caused “planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean and in the atmosphere”, a UN agency says in a report that shows the past eight years were the hottest ever recorded on Earth.
Global sea levels are rising at more than double the pace they did in the first decade of measurements from 1993 to 2002 and touched a new record high last year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday in its State of Global Climate 2022 report.
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Extreme glacier melt and record ocean heat levels, which cause water to expand, contributed to an average rise in sea levels of 4.62mm a year from 2013 to 2022, the organisation said in a report detailing the havoc wrought by climate change.
“Melting of glaciers and sea level rise – which again reached record levels in 2022 – will continue to up to thousands of years,” the report said. “Antarctic sea ice fell to its lowest extent on record and the melting of some European glaciers was, literally, off the charts.”
Killer floods, droughts and heat waves occurred around the world, costing many billions of dollars. The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and methane in the air reached the highest amounts recorded in modern times.
“This report shows that, once again, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to reach record levels – contributing to warming of the land and ocean, melting of ice sheets and glaciers, rising sea levels, and warming and acidifying of oceans,” WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas wrote in the report’s foreword.
Overall, the WMO said, 2022 ranked as the fifth or sixth warmest year on record with the mean global temperature 1.15 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average despite the cooling impact of a three-year La Niña climate event in the Pacific Ocean.
Climate scientists have warned that the world could breach a new average temperature record in 2023 or 2024, fuelled by climate change and the anticipated return of warming El Niño conditions.
The past eight years are the hottest on record globally, the report said.
The United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand had their hottest years on record.
“In 2022, continuous drought in East Africa, record-breaking rainfall in Pakistan, and record-breaking heat waves in China and Europe affected tens of millions, drove food insecurity, boosted mass migration, and cost billions of dollars in loss and damage,” Taalas wrote.
China’s heatwave was its longest and most extensive on record with its summer not just the hottest but also smashing the old record by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit), the 55-page report said.
Africa’s drought displaced more than 1.7 million people in Somalia and Ethiopia while Pakistan’s devastating flooding, which put one-third of the nation under water at one point, displaced about 8 million people, it said.
In a message ahead of Earth Day on Saturday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that “biodiversity is collapsing as one million species teeter on the brink of extinction”. He called on the world to end its “relentless and senseless wars on nature”.
“We have the tools, the knowledge and the solutions” to address climate change, Guterres said.