List of Contents
- About the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
- What are the key findings of the State of Global Climate Report?
- What are the adverse impacts of rapid climate change?
- What steps have been taken to tackle climate change?
- What are challenges in tackling climate change?
- What should be the approach going forward?
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According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO’s) State of Global Climate Report, 4 key climate change indicators – greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification – have set new records in 2021. This is yet another clear sign that human activities are causing planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean, and in the atmosphere, with harmful and long-lasting ramifications for sustainable development and ecosystems.
About the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 193 Member States and Territories.
It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), the roots of which were planted at the 1873 Vienna International Meteorological Congress.
It is a specialized agency of the UN and headquartered in Geneva. It is responsible for promoting international cooperation on atmospheric science, climatology, hydrology and geophysics. It facilitates the ‘free and unrestricted’ exchange of data, information, and research between the respective meteorological and hydrological institutions of its members
What are the key findings of the State of Global Climate Report?
Average global temperature: It was about 1.11 (± 0.13) °C above the pre-industrial level in 2021. The report observed that the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record.
Source: WMO State of Global Climate Report. The image depicts 6 different global temperature data sets. It can be observed from the image that all data sets indicate global mean temperatures have risen about 1.4oC above pre-industrial condition.
Greenhouse gas concentrations: It has reached a new global high in 2020. The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) globally, or 149% of the pre-industrial level.
Ocean heat: The upper 2000m depth of the ocean continued to warm in 2021 and it is expected that it will continue to warm in the future.
Ocean acidification: The oceans absorbs around 23% of the annual emissions of anthropogenic CO2 to the atmosphere. This reacts with seawater and leads to ocean acidification. As per report, there is a persistent rise in ocean acidification.
Global mean sea level: It also reached a new record high in 2021, after increasing at an average 4.5 mm per year over the period 2013 -2021. This is more than double the rate of between 1993 and 2002 and is mainly due to the accelerated loss of ice mass from the ice sheets.
Cryosphere: Although the glaciological year 2020-2021 saw less melting than in recent years, there is a clear trend towards an acceleration of mass loss on multi-decadal timescales. On average, the world’s reference glaciers have thinned by 33.5 meters (ice-equivalent) since 1950, with 76% of this thinning since 1980.
Ozone Hole: The ozone hole over the Antarctic was unusually large and deep, reaching its maximum area of 24.8 million km. square (the size of Africa). The size increased as a result of a strong and stable polar vortex and colder than average conditions in the lower stratosphere.
What are the adverse impacts of rapid climate change?
According the State of Global Climate Report, rapid climate change is going to have several adverse impacts:
First, it will enhance the magnitude of disasters and extreme events. Most recent cases include the drought emergency in the Horn of Africa, the deadly flooding in South Africa and the extreme heat in India and Pakistan. These extreme events inflict severe economic losses apart from taking the pristine human lives. For instance, Flooding induced economic losses of US$ 17.7 billion in Henan province of China.
Second, some glaciers have reached the point of no return and this will have long-term repercussions in a world in which more than 2 billion people already experience water stress.
Third, ecosystems including terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and the services they provide, are affected by the changing climate. For instance, Coral Reefs are projected to lose between 70 and 90% of their former coverage area at 1.5°C of warming and over 99% at 2°C.
Fourth, rising sea levels have major implications for hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers and increases vulnerability to tropical cyclones. It also threatens the survival of coastal cities like Mumbai by enhancing the probability of submergence.
Fifth, it is making the monsoon more and more erratic in nature. This will threaten food security of India. Further, the heat wave has scorched crops like wheat which will directly impact the productivity of food crops.
Sixth, Hydro Meteorological hazards contribute to internal displacement. The countries with the highest numbers of displacements recorded as of October 2021 were China (more than 1.4 million), the Philippines (more than 386 000) and Viet Nam (more than 664 000).
What steps have been taken to tackle climate change?
NAPCCC: To counter the emerging threats from climate change, India released its National Action Plan to Combat Climate Change (NAPCC). It has 8 sub missions including National Solar Mission, National Water Mission etc..
India Cooling Action Plan: It provides an integrated approach towards cooling and related areas including reduction in the cooling demand. This would help reduce emissions thereby combating global warming.
Paris Agreement: It seeks to keep the rise in global temperatures “well below” 2°C from pre-industrial times, while “pursuing efforts” to limit it to 1.5°C.
UN SDGs: These are 17 broad goals for achieving sustainable development in the society. Amongst them Goal 13 exclusively focuses on tackling climate change.
Glasgow Pact: It was finally adopted by 197 parties on 13 November 2021 during the COP26 negotiations. It has emphasized that stronger action in the current decade was most critical for achieving the 1.5-degree target.
What are challenges in tackling climate change?
Rising Industrialization and Urbanization: Developing countries are pushing for industrialization and urbanization as steps towards strengthening their economy. However, this also involves clearing large tracts of forests which reduces the carbon sinks.
Dearth of Early Warning Systems: Early Warning Systems are critically required for climate adaptation, and yet these are only available in less than half of WMO’s Members.
High Dependence on Fossil Fuels: Fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy mix of most countries, especially the developing countries. The situation is not expected to change any sooner, as they lack access to technologies and finance to enable green energy transition.
Financial Constraints: Many nations don’t have enough financial resources to do considerable investment in critical sectors such as urban infrastructure and prepare social safety nets for the most vulnerable populations.
Lack of Political Will: Climate Change is not an electoral agenda in most countries. There is no public pressure on the leadership to undertake tangible steps to address climate change.
Opposition from Fossil Fuel Companies: Oil and Gas companies continue to aggressively lobby against strict climate action. One such instance is the Keystone Pipeline controversy in the US. The pressure has prevented governments from drafting stringent climate policies.
What should be the approach going forward?
First, the countries should transform their energy systems and move towards renewable energy production. There should be: (a) Greater access to renewable energy technology and supplies; (b) A tripling of private and public investments in renewables; (c) An end to subsidies on fossil fuels which amount to roughly $11 million per minute.
Second, the WMO State of the Global Climate report will be used as an official document for the UN Climate Change negotiations known as COP27. More ambitious targets can be adopted at the summit especially by developed countries in the spirit of common but differentiated responsibilities principle.
Third, masses should be sensitized towards climate change by taking support of the NGOs. This would also help in creation of Climate Change based Political Parties.
Fourth, countries must switch to Green GDP or Green Accounting in order to decrease damage to the environment.
The State of Global Climate Report shows that there is a need to focus the efforts on bold policies and solutions that can quickly transform the way the resources are produced and consumed. People and partnerships have to be the central approach, whether it is to create new jobs, provide more access and affordability for everyone and to build a cleaner and greener living environment.