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Weather extremes show need for more climate action, says WMO

By Victor Gbonegun
16 January 2023   |   3:23 am
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has said weather, water and climate-related disasters, including extreme flooding, heat and drought which affected millions of people and cost billions last year, indicate the need for more climate change mitigation.

PHOTO: OZAN KOSE / AFP

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has said weather, water and climate-related disasters, including extreme flooding, heat and drought which affected millions of people and cost billions last year, indicate the need for more climate change mitigation.

It says the events of 2022 once again underlined the clear need to do much more to cut greenhouse gas emissions with better monitoring to strengthen climate change adaptation through universal access to early warnings.

The past eight years are on track to be the eight warmest on record. Global temperature figures for 2022 will be released in mid-January. The persistence of a cooling La Niña event, now in its third year, means that 2022 will not be the warmest year on record. But this cooling impact will be short-lived and will not reverse the long-term warming trend caused by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, according to WMO.

The yearly global temperature forecast by the UK’s Met Office suggests that the average global temperature for 2023 will be between 1.08 °C and 1.32°C with a central estimate of 1.20 °C above the average for the pre-industrial period (1850 to 1900).

This will be the tenth year in succession that temperatures have reached at least 1°C above pre-industrial levels.

The likelihood of temporarily breaching the 1.5°C limit of the Paris Agreement is increasing with time.

The WMO Secretary-General, Prof. Petteri Taalas said: “We have faced several dramatic weather disasters which claimed far too many lives and livelihoods and undermined health, food, energy and water security and infrastructure. One third of Pakistan was flooded, with major economic losses and human casualties. Record-breaking heat waves have been observed in China, Europe, North and South America. The long-lasting drought in the Horn of Africa threatens a humanitarian catastrophe.

There is a need to enhance preparedness for such extreme events and to ensure that we meet the UN target of Early Warnings for all in the next five years.”

WMO, which marks its 150th anniversary this year, stressed that early warnings, increasing investment in basic global observing system and building resilience to extreme weather and climate will be among its priorities in the New Year.

The organisation assured that it would also promote a new way of monitoring the sinks and sources of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide by using the ground-based Global Atmosphere Watch, satellite and assimilation modeling.

It noted that this allows better understanding of the behaviour of the key greenhouse gases in the real atmosphere.

“There are for example large uncertainties related to the strength of sinks of carbon in the biosphere and sources of methane, which will be better monitored with the new method,” Taalas said.

Undoubtedly, greenhouse gases are just one of the climate indicators now at record observed levels. Sea level, ocean heat content and acidification are also at record observed highs as the rate of sea level rise has doubled since 1993 rising by nearly 10 mm since January 2020 to a new record high in 2022.

Records show that the past two and a half years alone account for 10 per cent of the overall rise in sea level since satellite measurements started nearly 30 years ago, according to WMO’s provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report.

2022 took an exceptionally heavy toll on glaciers in the European Alps, with initial indications of record-shattering melt. The Greenland ice sheet lost mass for the 26th consecutive year and it rained rather than snowed on the summit for the first time in September.

While 2022 did not break global temperature records; there were a number of national heat records in many parts of the world.

For instance, in East Africa, rainfall has been below average in four consecutive wet seasons, the longest in 40 years, triggering a major humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people, devastating agriculture and killing livestock, especially in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

There was record-breaking rain in July and August led to extensive flooding in Pakistan. There were at least 1, 700 deaths and 33 million people affected. 7.9 million people were displaced. The flooding came hard on the heels of an extreme heatwave in March and April 2022 in India and Pakistan.