The world’s oceans grew to the warmest and most acidic levels on record last year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said yesterday, as United Nations officials warned that the war in Ukraine threatens global climate commitments.
Oceans faced the most striking extremes when the WMO detailed a series of turbulences caused by climate change in its yearbook state of the global climate Report. It said melting ice sheets helped raise sea levels to new heights in 2021.
“Our climate is changing before our eyes,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
The report follows the recent UN climate assessment, which warned that humanity must drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions or face increasingly catastrophic changes in the world’s climate.
Mr Taalas told reporters there was little airtime on climate challenges as other crises, such as the war in Ukraine, grabbed the headlines.
Selwin Hart, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ special adviser on climate change, criticized countries not meeting their climate commitments because of the Ukraine conflict, which has pushed up energy prices and prompted European nations to replace Russia as an energy supplier.
“We see many major economies making many decisions that frankly have the potential to ensure a high-carbon and polluting future and put our climate goals at risk,” Hart told reporters.
On Tuesday, global equity index giant MSCI warned that the world faces a dangerous rise in greenhouse gases if coal is substituted for Russian gas.
The WMO report says levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere surpassed previous records in 2021. The global average temperature last year was 1.11°C above the pre-industrial average as the world approaches the 1.5°C threshold, beyond which the effects of warming are expected to become severe.
“It is only a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record,” Mr Taalas said.
The oceans bear much of the brunt of warming and emissions. They absorb about 90 percent of the planet’s accumulated heat and 23 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from human activity.
They have been warming at a significantly faster rate over the past 20 years, reaching a new high in 2021 — and expected to get even warmer, the report said.
This change would likely take centuries or millennia to reverse.
The oceans are also now more acidic than they have been in at least 26,000 years as they absorb and react with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Sea levels have risen by 4.5 cm over the past decade, with annual increases from 2013 to 2021 more than double those from 1993 to 2002.
The WMO also detailed individual extreme heat waves, wildfires, floods and other climate-related disasters around the world, noting reports of more than $100 billion in damage.
The UN chief yesterday launched a five-point plan to boost broader use of renewable energy, hoping to rekindle the world’s attention to climate change as the UN weather agency reported greenhouse gas concentrations, sea warming, sea level rise and ocean acidification peaking were record values last year.
“We need to end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the transition to renewable energy before we burn our only home,” Mr Guterres said. “Time is running out.”
The effects of extreme weather have resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in death and disease, migration and economic losses — and the fallout continues this year, the WMO said.
Mr Guterres said: “Today state of the climate The report is a somber litany of humanity’s failure to address climate disruption. The global energy system is broken and is bringing us ever closer to climate catastrophe.”
In his plan, Mr. Guterres called for promoting technology transfer and removing intellectual property protections from renewable technologies.
He also wants to expand access to supply chains and raw materials that go into renewable technologies, which are now concentrated in a few powerful countries.
The UN chief also wants governments to implement reforms to encourage renewable energy, for example by accelerating solar and wind projects.
He also called for a move away from government subsidies for fossil fuels, which amount to half a trillion dollars a year.
Finally, Mr. Guterres said investments in renewable energy need to triple to at least $4 trillion a year.
Government subsidies for fossil fuels are now more than three times those for renewable energy.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/oceans-now-at-hottest-and-most-acidic-on-record-climate-agency-report-warns-41664553.html The oceans are now at their hottest and most acidic on record, the climate agency’s report warns