World on verge of tragic climate as temperature rise continues
The Earth’s temperature has continued to rise unabated, with 2020 being one of the three warmest years on record. Extreme weather events combine with COVID-19 pandemic to negatively impact millions of people.
According to the state of the global climate report by World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the global average temperature in 2020 was about 1.2-degree Celsius, above pre-industrial level.
The figure is “dangerously close” to the 1.5-degree Celsius limit advocated by scientists to stave off the worst impact of climate change. The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record, and the decade has been the warmest ever.
The report also noted how climate change undermines sustainable development efforts through a cascading chain of interrelated events that can worsen existing inequalities, as well as raise the potential for feedback loops, perpetuating the deteriorating cycle of climate change.
Amongst WMO’s findings is the fact that concentration of the major greenhouse gases continued to increase in 2019 and 2020, with global average for carbon dioxide exceeding 410 parts per million (ppm), and a further warning that if the concentration follows the same pattern as in previous years, it could reach or exceed 414 ppm this year.
According to the meteorological organisation, ocean acidification and deoxygenation continued, impacting ecosystems, marine life and fisheries, as well as reducing its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
Furthermore, 2019 saw the highest ocean heat level on record, and the trend likely continued in 2020.
The report also noted that since the mid-1980s, Arctic air surface temperatures have warmed at least twice as fast as the global average, with “potentially large implications” not only for Arctic ecosystems but also for the global climate, such as thawing permafrost-releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
In addition, record low Arctic sea-ice extent was observed in July and October 2020, while the Greenland ice sheet lost approximately 152 gigatonnes of ice between September 2019 and August 2020.
Extreme weather events were also recorded in several locations globally, with heavy rains and floods, severe and long-term droughts, disastrous storms, and widespread and prolonged wildfires, such as in the US and Australia.
“We are on the verge of the abyss”, Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said at a press conference announcing the findings.
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