SHARM EL SHEIKH, (Egypt): Each of the last eight years, if projections for 2022 hold, will be warmer than any year before 2015, the UN said on Sunday, detailing a dramatic increase in the rate of global warming .
Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, torrential rains, heat waves – and the deadly disasters they cause – have all accelerated, the World Meteorological Organization said in a report to the opening of the UN Climate Summit COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
“As COP27 kicks off, our planet is sending a signal of distress,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said, describing the report as “a chronicle of climate chaos.”
The Earth has warmed more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, with about half of that increase occurring in the past 30 years, the report said.
Nearly 200 nations meeting in Egypt are aiming to keep rising temperatures to 1.5C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), a target some scientists now believe is out of reach.
This year is on track to be the fifth or sixth warmest on record despite the impact since 2020 of La Nina – a periodic, natural phenomenon in the Pacific that cools the atmosphere.
“The greater the warming, the more severe the impacts,” said WMO director Petteri Taalas.
The surface water of the ocean – which absorbs more than 90% of the heat accumulated by human carbon emissions – reached record temperatures in 2021, warming particularly rapidly over the past 20 years.
Marine heat waves were also on the rise, with devastating consequences for coral reefs and the half a billion people who depend on them for food and a living.
Overall, 55% of the ocean surface experienced at least one marine heat wave in 2022, according to the report.
Driven by melting ice caps and glaciers, the rate of sea level rise has doubled in the past 30 years, threatening tens of millions of people in low-lying coastal areas.
“The messages in this report could hardly be more somber,” said British Antarctic Survey chief scientist Mike Meredith.
“Across our planet, records are being broken as different parts of the climate system begin to collapse.”
The greenhouse gases responsible for more than 95% of warming are all at record highs, with methane posting the biggest one-year jump on record, according to the WMO’s annual Global Climate Report.
The rise in methane emissions has been attributed to leaks in natural gas production and an increase in beef consumption.
In 2022, a cascade of extreme weather exacerbated by climate change devastated communities around the world.
A two-month heat wave in South Asia in March and April bearing the unmistakable imprint of human-caused warming was followed by floods in Pakistan that left a third of the country under water. At least 1,700 people died and eight million were displaced.
In East Africa, rainfall has been below average for four consecutive wet seasons, the longest in 40 years, with 2022 expected to worsen drought.
China has experienced the longest and most intense heat wave on record and the second driest summer.
Falling water levels have disrupted or threatened commercial river traffic along the Yangtze in China, the Mississippi in the United States and several major inland waterways in Europe, which have also suffered repeated bouts of sweltering heat.
The poorest countries are the least responsible for climate change but the most vulnerable to its terrible effects and those who have suffered the most.
“But even well-prepared societies this year have been ravaged by extremes – as evidenced by prolonged heat waves and drought across large parts of Europe and southern China,” Taalas said.
In the European Alps, glacier melt records were broken in 2022, with average thickness losses of between three and over four meters (between 9.8 and over 13 feet), the most ever recorded.
Switzerland has lost more than a third of its glacier volume since 2001.
“If there was ever a year to overwhelm, shred and burn the blinders of global climate inaction, then 2022 should be it,” said Dave Reay, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Climate Change Institute. .
“The world now has a monumental damage control job.”