Nov 7, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Earth's "distress signal" for COP27

Data: Hersbach, et. al., 2019, "ERA5 monthly averaged data on single levels from 1959 to present";  Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

An array of climate statistics released over the weekend provide a sobering backdrop for global climate negotiations kicking off in Egypt.

Why it matters: The new data provide the most complete and up-to-date look at climate conditions through 2022, depicting a world of worsening impacts.

  • As COP27 gets underway, our planet is sending a distress signal," said UN secretary-general António Guterres, in a video message Sunday.

Zoom in: The report, timed for the start of the COP27 negotiations in Sharm el-Sheikh, finds that the past 8 years have been the world's warmest on record.

  • The provisional "State of the Global Climate" report notes that the pace of sea level rise is increasing, with 10% of the increase since 1993 occurring in just the past two and a half years.
  • "Although we still measure this in terms of millimeters 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," said World Meteorological Organization head Petteri Taalas, in a statement.
  • The dominant cause is now melting land-based ice from Greenland, Antarctica and mountain glaciers, studies show.

By the numbers: Glaciers in the Alps lost a record 3 to 4 meters of ice this summer as Europe saw a series of intense heat waves.

  • For the first time on record, no snow lasted through the summer season in Switzerland, the report states.
  • The Greenland ice sheet's string of years of losing more ice than it gained extended to 26 years.
  • In addition, the first instance of rainfall during September was recorded at the top of the Greenland ice sheet, a possible sign of the melt season extending later in the year.

Between the lines: The report finds that the world is on track to see its fifth or sixth-warmest year on record this year, with global average temperatures currently running about 1.15°C (2.07°F) above the preindustrial average.

  • The authors at the WMO, a UN agency, tie the lack of a record warmest year in 2022 to the third-straight year of cooling La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
  • The next El Niño year is likely to be the world's warmest, and some early projections show a possible El Niño developing in 2023.
  • Ocean heat content reached record levels in 2021, with recent studies showing such trends continuing and increasingly resulting in extreme weather events over land.
  • The report touches on a litany of climate change-related disasters this year, from flooding in Pakistan to drought and extreme heat in China.

What they're saying: Guterres on Monday called for a "climate solidarity pact" between rich and poor nations to limit the severity of global warming in a COP27 speech.

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