“The science is unequivocal: we are going in the wrong direction.”
So says the head of the world atmospheric science agency after the publication of a new report compiling the latest scientific research from seven leading authorities.
In a stern warning to policy makers, industry and the public, the report warns of the “devastating” problems caused by climate change which has blasted the lack of urgent action.
“Without ambitious action, the physical and socio-economic impacts of climate change will be devastating. Irreversible physical changes to the climate system, known as tipping points, cannot be ruled out and could have significant global and regional consequences,” the report states.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) united in science The report includes assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, independent and UN-backed carbon monitoring agencies and the UK Met Office. It revealed that there is a nearly 50/50 chance that the global annual average temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels within the next five years.
1.5°C is the “preferable” limit to global warming set in the Paris Agreement signed by 196 countries in 2015, supporting the stated ambition to keep global warming “well below” two degrees.
Last year, nations adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact which includes commitments to mitigate climate change, reduce emissions and support vulnerable developing countries.
“Greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, reaching new records,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.
“Fossil fuel emission rates are now above pre-pandemic levels, the past seven years have been the hottest on record, cities – which contribute 70% of global emissions – are highly vulnerable to climate impacts .”
So what does this report say?
The united in science The assessment of global carbon reduction targets indicates that national targets must be at least seven times more ambitious, otherwise “irreversible physical changes” in the global climate system could not be ruled out.
Among its findings, the report found:
- Carbon dioxide emissions at the start of 2022 were above pre-pandemic levels at the start of 2019.
- 2015-2021 were the seven hottest years on record.
- Carbon reductions in 2020 as a result of widespread COVID-19 lockdowns have been overshadowed.
- Countries’ mitigation pledges are insufficient to prevent global warming.
Lockdowns have been found to have little impact on reducing the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Originally, a 5.4% drop in these gases was attributed to shutdowns in 2020. Early data analyzed by the Global Carbon Project indicates that carbon dioxide has increased by at least 1% compared to the same period in 2019.
This increase was largely driven by the United States, India and most of Europe.
This comes despite the fact that 23 countries – including the United States, European countries, Mexico and Japan – reduced their carbon dioxide emissions in the decade before the pandemic.
The WMO also found that the oceans were warming at their fastest rate in two decades.
Around 90% of the Earth’s accumulated heat is stored in the oceans and the five years from 2018 to 2022 saw the highest rate of heat capture of any other half-decade on record.
Meanwhile, the UK Met Office predicts a global average temperature near the upper surface of 1.1 to 1.7 degrees in each of the next five years. Although there is a low probability that the average temperature during this period will exceed 1.5 degrees, there is a good chance that this milestone will be reached in at least one of these years.
WMO calls for intensified action to mitigate climate change
There is a risk of “embedded” change in global climate if atmospheric tipping points are exceeded. The united in science the report stresses that this will happen in the absence of “ambitious action”.
Australia recently legislated an emissions reduction target of 43% below 2005 levels by 2030. Critics say this is insufficient for Australia to play its part in global carbon reduction efforts, given that it is one of the largest emitters of pollution per capita. The Climate Council, for example, wants to see a 75% off by the end of the decade.
Among the frequent projections for countries like Australia are exacerbated temperature extremes and an increase in hazardous events, some of which are beginning to appear. Tuesday’s declaration of a third consecutive La Niña event, for example, has only happened three times in the past century.
Although La Niña is a natural climate event, increases in its frequency and severity may indicate climate change due to human-caused carbon emissions. Over the past two years, unprecedented flood damage has occurred along the east coast of Australia due to the cooler and wetter conditions that La Niña typically brings.
“The projections are that these things continue,” says University of New South Wales climatologist Professor Lisa Alexander.
“And that’s not surprising, given what we know about how humans interact with the climate system and what they can potentially do.
“Extreme temperatures, extreme rainfall, those are certainly things that we not only have seen, but will continue to see at an accelerating rate in the future.”
Amid record heat in the UK, European droughts and record flooding in Pakistan, ‘early warning’ systems are becoming increasingly important for nations seeking to reduce the impacts of climate events. extremes on human lives.
This point is emphasized by Taalas.
“Climate science is increasingly able to show that many of the extreme weather events we experience have become more likely and intense due to human-induced climate change. We have seen this many times this year, with tragic effect. It is more important than ever to scale up action on early warning systems to build resilience to current and future climate hazards in vulnerable communities.
Professor Emeritus Neville Nicholls of the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University has worked as lead author on several IPCC reports since 1990.
He said the WMO’s latest assessment was a “sobering” report showing the world would not be able to avoid some of the adverse effects of global warming.
“While efforts to slow emissions must continue and accelerate, we are left with the uncomfortable fact that we will have to adapt to climate change,” Nicholls said.
“Fortunately, meteorological science has advanced considerably over the past 50 years and as a result we now have early warning systems for heat waves, tropical cyclones and even droughts and floods.
“These systems save lives and improve livelihoods and can offset the worsening of these extreme events by climate change. But we have to keep improving them.
The report comes after recent data showed parts of the world could experience more than 200 days of dangerous heat index temperatures and up to 90 days of extremely dangerous days per year by 2100. The academics also have called on organizations like the IPCC to actively begin reporting on the risk of human extinction.