Climate change indicators reach record highs in 2021: UN chief

Climate change indicators reach record highs in 2021: UN chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the global energy system has collapsed. (File)


Four key climate change indicators set new record highs in 2021, the United Nations said Wednesday, warning that the global energy system is heading for a catastrophe for humanity.

The concentration of greenhouse gases, rising sea levels, ocean heat and sea acidification all set new records last year, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its “2021 Global Climate Situation” report.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said the annual summary was “a disappointing case of humanity’s failure to address climate change”. “The global energy system is collapsing and bringing us closer to climate change. We need to end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the transformation of renewable energy before burning our only home.”

The WMO says that human activity is causing planet-scale changes in the land, oceans and atmosphere, with harmful and long-term effects on the ecosystem.

Record heat

The report confirms that the last seven years were the top seven warmest years on record.

La Nina events in early and late 2021 had a chilling effect on global temperatures last year.

Nevertheless, it was still one of the warmest years on record, with the average global temperature in 2021 rising by about 1.11 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change states that countries have agreed to limit global warming to 2C – and 1.5C if possible – below the average level measured between 1850 and 1900.

“Our climate is changing before our very eyes,” said Petri Talas, head of WMO

“The heat trapped by man-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come. Sea level rise, sea heat and acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere is invented.”

‘Consistent picture of warming world’

The four key indicators of climate change “create a coherent picture of a warming world that touches all parts of the earth’s system,” the report said.

The concentration of greenhouse gases reached a new global high in 2020, when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) worldwide, or 149 percent of the pre-industrial level.

The data indicate that they continue to increase in 2021 and early 2022, with the monthly average CO2 in Hawaii reaching 416.45 ppm in April 2020, 419.05 ppm in April 2021 and 420.23 ppm in April 2022, the report said.

The global average sea level reached a new record high in 2021, rising an average of 4.5 millimeters per year from 2013 to 2021, the report said.

GMSL grew 2.1 mm per year between 1993 and 2002, with growth over the two periods “mostly due to the rapid decrease in ice mass from ice sheets,” it says.

Signs in the sea

According to the report, the sea temperature reached a record high last year, surpassing the 2020 standard.

It is expected that 2,000 meters above sea level will continue to warm in the future – “a change that is unchanged on the millennium timescale from centuries”, the WMO said, adding that warming is entering deeper levels.

The oceans absorb about 23 percent of the annual man-made CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Although it slows down the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, CO2 reacts with seawater and leads to the acidification of the oceans.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded with “very high confidence” that the acidity of the surface of the open ocean is “the highest for at least 26,000 years”.

The report, meanwhile, says that the Antarctic ozone hole, driven by a strong and stable polar vortex, has reached an “unusually deep and large” maximum area of ​​24.8 million square kilometers in 2021.

Guterres proposed five steps to begin the transition to renewable energy “before it’s too late.”

Among them, he called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, tripled investment in renewable energy, and the creation of freely available global public products such as renewable energy technologies such as battery storage.

“If we work together, the transformation of renewable energy can be a 21st century peace project,” Guterres said.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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