Past 8 years were the warmest on record, U.N. agency says

The COP27 climate summit kicked off on Sunday with yet another dire report about the state of the planet. As world leaders gathered for the conference in Egypt, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the past eight years have been the hottest in recorded history. 

In the period from 2013 to 2022, the global average temperature was an estimated 1.14 degrees Celsius above 1850-1900 levels, according to the U.N. agency’s provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report. 

And according to the agency, “the warming continues” — accompanied by accelerating sea level rise, record-breaking glacier melting in Europe and extreme weather.

“We just had the 8 warmest years on record,” the U.N. agency said. “The global average temperature in 2022 is about 1.15 °C above the pre-industrial level.”

Officials warned for years that to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change, the world needs to stay below a global average of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming compared to pre-industrial times. Now, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas warns that is looking improbable. 

“The greater the warming, the worse the impacts,” he said. “We have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now that the lower 1.5ºC of the Paris Agreement is barely within reach.”

The development echoes a string of reports the U.N. issued less than two weeks ago that found nations are failing to create and enact sufficient plans for tackling the climate crisis. The reports found that based on current actions, plans and emissions, Earth is on track to hit nearly 3 degrees Celsius of warming in less than 80 years. 

The WMO’s latest report said the record heat comes as “the tell-tale signs and impacts of climate change are becoming more dramatic.” 

In its provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022 report, the WMO found that greenhouse gases have hit record levels. The rate of sea level rise doubled since 1993 and has risen by nearly 10 millimeters since January 2020, hitting a record high in 2022. Ocean heat also hit record levels in 2021.

“The past two and a half years alone account for 10 percent of the overall rise in sea level since satellite measurements started nearly 30 years ago,” the WMO said.

Glaciers played a large role in this. In Europe, glaciers in the European Alps are believed to have had “record-shattering melt” since January alone. The Greenland ice sheet, which combined with Antarctica stores about two-thirds of the planet’s fresh water, lost some of its mass for the 26th consecutive year and got its first rain in September, the report found. 

“It’s already too late for many glaciers and the melting will continue for hundreds if not thousands of years, with major implications for water security,” Taalas said. “The rate of sea level rise has doubled in the past 30 years. Although we still measure this in terms of millimetres per year, it adds up to half to one meter per century and that is a long-term and major threat to many millions of coastal dwellers and low-lying states.”

The WMO said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to unveil a plan at COP27 for a global early warning system, which the agency noted half of nations lack. The Early Warnings for All Initiative will seek $3.1 billion of investments over the next five years to help with “disaster risk knowledge, observations and forecasting, preparedness and response, and communication of early warnings.” 

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