WMO’s State of the Global Climate Report – Explained, pointwise

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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has recently issued a new update to its “State of the Global Climate Report.” The report warns of a surge in global temperatures to record levels within the next five years. It predicts a 66% chance that annual average temperatures will exceed 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year between 2023 and 2027.

The forecast combines the effects of human-induced climate change and the expected development of a warming El Niño event. It highlights the urgency of preparedness for the far-reaching impacts on health, food security, water management, and the environment.  

About WMO’s State of the Global Climate Report

Overview: The State of the Global Climate Report 2022 focuses on key climate indicators – greenhouse gases, temperatures, sea level rise, ocean heat and acidification, sea ice and glaciers. It provides scientific evidence of the changing climate and its impact on global weather patterns, ecosystems, and human societies.  

Key Findings in 2022

State of the Global Climate Report
Source: DTE

What are the warnings highlighted by the State of the Global Climate Report?

Accelerated sea-level rise: The report warns that the rate of global mean sea-level rise has doubled between the first decade of the satellite record (1993- 2002) and the last (2022). This rise is attributed to ocean warming, ice loss from glaciers and ice sheets, and changes in land water storage. This acceleration could cause drastic changes in land cover and potentially increase social disparities in coastal areas.  

More frequent and intense extreme weather events: The report indicates that rising global temperatures contribute to more frequent and intense extreme weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and severe storms. China, for instance, experienced its most extensive and long-lasting heatwave on record in 2022.  

Drought conditions and decreased agricultural yield: The frequency and intensity of droughts are increasing. This results in decreased agricultural yield, negatively impacting food security. An example of this is seen in India and Pakistan, where 2022’s heatwaves reduced wheat crop yield significantly, leading the Indian government to ban wheat exports.  

Anticipated further climate change impacts: The report also anticipates further impacts of climate change, such as an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the possibility of an El Niño event, which can exacerbate the current climate crisis.  

Read more: State of the Global Climate 2022: The threat of rising sea levels

What will be the consequences of increased temperature?

State of the Global Climate Report
Source: TOI

Sea-level rise: Global warming is causing sea levels to rise at an unprecedented rate. For instance, the rate of global mean sea-level rise doubled between the first decade of the satellite record and the last, contributing to a potential loss of coastal land and greater risk for coastal communities.  

Increased extreme weather events: Increased global temperatures contribute to more frequent and intense extreme weather events, such as cyclones, heavy rain, flooding, and other extreme storms. For example, Nigeria experienced exacerbated flooding during the rainy season due to very heavy rainfall, causing hundreds of deaths.  

Effect on Agriculture: Increased temperatures can have a considerable impact on agricultural yields. For example, in 2021, a heatwave in the Pacific Northwest of the United States led to reduced yields in vital crops such as apples, cherries, and wheat. These events can have a ripple effect on global food markets and security.  

Greater social disparities: As a result of land loss due to sea-level rise, there could be an increase in social disparities. Those who are better off will be able to cope better than marginalized groups, leading to social inequalities among people living in coastal areas.  

Record temperatures in Antarctica: Extreme temperatures are not limited to regions traditionally associated with heat. Antarctica recorded exceptionally high temperatures in March 2022, with two sites measuring 35 °C above the average for March and 15 °C above previous record years.  

Marine heatwaves and impacts on sea life: Marine heatwaves, caused by increased ocean temperatures, can have disastrous impacts on marine life and ecosystems. The Mediterranean Sea, for instance, suffered from marine heatwaves from March to December 2022, potentially threatening marine biodiversity.  

Increased wildfires: Increased temperatures and droughts can lead to a rise in wildfires. While the report did not specifically mention wildfires, global trends show that higher temperatures are often associated with an increased risk of wildfires, which can cause the destruction of ecosystems, homes, and human lives.  

Read more: Global Sea Level Rise: WMO Report – Explained, pointwise

What are the challenges in limiting the impacts of climate change?  

Challenges in policy enactment and enforcement: Despite extensive data on climate change, policies and laws aren’t keeping up with the rapidly changing conditions. For example, faster sea-level rises can cause major changes in coastal ecosystems before rehabilitative policies have a chance to mitigate the impacts.  

“Common but Differentiated Responsibilities”: This principle can create challenges, particularly in balancing fairness and efficiency in distributing responsibilities and resources to combat climate change. Negotiations often become complex as countries debate their respective obligations to reduce emissions or finance climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

For example, developed nations like the US and EU have historically contributed more to global warming but emerging economies like China and India are now significant contributors too. Balancing this dynamic while achieving consensus on climate policies is a substantial challenge.  

Managing extreme weather events: With climate change leading to more frequent and extreme weather events, managing these disasters poses a significant challenge. For instance, Madagascar was battered by three consecutive tropical storm systems in early 2022, causing extensive damage and loss of life. The ability to predict, prepare for, and respond to these events is a huge challenge.  

Economic and social disruption: Climate change impacts can lead to significant social and economic disruptions, especially in vulnerable communities. As an example, the intense droughts in the Horn of Africa led to poor crop yields, triggering food shortages, and socio-economic instability. Balancing economic growth with sustainability efforts is a significant challenge, especially for developing countries.  

Managing resource scarcity: Climate change can also exacerbate resource scarcity. Rising sea levels can increase groundwater salinity, thereby affecting agriculture and worsening water crises in coastal areas. For instance, as the Global Mean Sea-Level continues to rise, more seawater could seep into the ground, leading to groundwater turning saline and exacerbating water crises in coastal areas.  

Read more: Climate Justice: Meaning, Challenges and Way Forward – Explained, pointwise

What should be done to limit the impacts of climate change?

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions: One of the most crucial steps to limit climate change is cutting greenhouse gas emissions significantly. With human-emitted greenhouse gases at a record high, countries should transition to more sustainable, low-carbon energy sources and promote energy efficiency in various sectors.  

Improving climate adaptation and resilience: To deal with climate change’s impacts, it is important to invest in and implement adaptation measures to increase resilience against extreme weather events. This includes developing early warning systems, better infrastructure, and implementing climate-smart agriculture.  

Promoting sustainable practices: Governments, businesses, and individuals should promote sustainable practices in their daily operations and routines. This can range from waste management, and water conservation, to the promotion of circular economies that reduce waste and overconsumption.  

Global cooperation and commitment: Addressing climate change requires global cooperation. All countries should commit to ambitious climate goals in line with the Paris Agreement and ensure these commitments are met. Wealthier nations should also provide support to developing nations, particularly those most affected by climate change, to enable them to adapt and transition to a low-carbon economy.  

Investing in climate research and innovation: There’s a need to continually invest in climate science research to better understand the impacts of climate change and develop innovative solutions. Research institutions and governments should support advancements in clean energy technologies, carbon capture techniques, and other breakthroughs that can mitigate climate change.  

Education and awareness: Raising awareness about the impacts of climate change and educating the public about sustainable living practices can also play a significant role in mitigating climate change. Individuals can make a difference by adopting more environmentally-friendly lifestyles and advocating for climate action.  

Read more: Express View on new climate change report 

SourceLivemintUNFCCC, Down To Earth (Article 1 and Article 2), Outlook IndiaIndian ExpressORF and The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 3: Environment and Bio-diversity: Conservation

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