Concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, sea-level rise, and ocean warming and acidification all rose to new record highs in 2021, according to a global climate report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva on Wednesday.
Climate catastrophe is getting closer
“The global energy system is broken and is bringing us ever closer to climate catastrophe,” commented UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the WMO report. “We must stop fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the transition to renewable energy before we burn our only home.”
In its status report on the world climate for 2021, the WMO confirms that the past seven years have been the seven hottest years since weather records began. Temperatures last year were 1.11 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Earth heading for 2.7 degree warming
The Paris climate agreement envisages limiting global warming to well below two degrees and, if possible, to 1.5 degrees. According to the UN, the earth is currently heading for a serious warming of 2.7 degrees.
“Our climate is changing before our eyes,” said WMO boss Petteri Taalas. According to the report by the UN sub-organization, the development of the four indicators mentioned for climate change “gives a uniform picture of a warming world that covers all parts of the earth system”.
The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record 413.2 parts per million (ppm) in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. According to preliminary data, the increase continued.
Sea levels have risen by an average of 4.5 millimeters per year since 2013, reaching a new high in 2021. From 1993 to 2002, the average annual rise was 2.1 millimeters. The report says that the melting of the ice sheets in particular has more than doubled this value.
According to the WMO, the warming of the oceans will continue in the coming years and will be “irreversible within periods of hundreds to thousands of years”. Among other things, the oceans are of great importance as the earth’s cooling system. They absorb about 23 percent of annual man-made CO2 emissions. However, the huge amounts of the greenhouse gas lead to acidification of the oceans.
Guterres called for five immediate measures to combat the climate crisis
These include ending fossil fuel subsidies and tripling investment in renewable energy. “If we act together, the transformation to renewable energies can be the peace project of the 21st century,” said the UN Secretary-General.
The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and its consequences have made many countries aware of their dependence on fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil. The head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, advocated viewing the current energy crisis as an opportunity on Tuesday. “The world does not have to choose between overcoming the energy crisis and the climate crisis,” he said.