ISLAMABAD: Four key climate change indicators — greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification — set new records in 2021, according to the ‘State of the Global Climate’ report.

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, according to the report released by World Meteorological Organisation on Wednesday.

Extreme weather — the day-to-day “face” of climate change — led to hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses and wreaked a heavy toll on human lives and well-being and triggered shocks for food and water security and displacement that have accentuated in 2022.

The WMO report confirmed that the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. The year 2021 was “only” one of the seven warmest because of a ‘La Nina’ event at the start and end of the year. This had a temporary cooling effect but did not reverse the overall trend of rising temperatures. The average global temperature in 2021 was about 1.11 centigrade above the pre-industrial level. Greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new global high in 2020, when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) globally, or 149 per cent of the pre-industrial level.

Pakistan among nations affected by drought

Ocean heat was record high. The upper 2,000m depth of the ocean continued to warm in 2021 and it is expected that it will continue to warm in the future — a change which is irreversible on centennial to millennial time scales. All data sets agree that ocean warming rates show a particularly strong increase in the past two decades. The warmth is penetrating to ever deeper levels. Much of the ocean experienced at least one ‘strong’ marine heat wave at some point in 2021.

Drought affected many parts of the world, including the Horn of Africa, Canada, the western United States, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. In sub-tropical South America, drought caused big agricultural losses and disrupted energy production and river transport. Pakistan had its third-driest February and fifth-driest January-March on record.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022

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