A report organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) paints a worrying picture of accelerating climate impacts and rising emissions, despite COVID-19 slowing worldwide.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have heard that we need to rebuild better to put humanity on a more sustainable path and avoid the worst impacts of climate change on society and economies,” said the secretary general of the ‘OMM, Professor Petteri Taalas, in a press release.
“This report shows that so far in 2021, we are not moving in the right direction.”
The United in Science 2021 report is designed to compile the most recent scientific data on climate.
It is coordinated by WMO and supported by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Global Carbon Project (GCP), the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) and the Met Office in the United Kingdom.
The WMO says carbon dioxide emissions “have recovered quickly” after the initial pandemic shutdowns and that greenhouse gas concentrations are at “record levels”.
“Rising global temperatures are fueling devastating extreme weather conditions around the world, with spiraling impacts on economies and societies,” WMO said.
“Billions of hours of work have been lost because of the heat alone. The average global temperature over the past five years has been among the highest on record. Temperatures are increasingly likely to temporarily exceed the 1.5 ° Celsius threshold above the pre-industrial era, over the next five years. “
Canada among hard hit regions
Canada was also singled out in the report on the heatwave that hit the west of the country this year, as well as the northwestern United States.
In Canada, the village of Lytton posted the Canadian heat record of 49.6 C on June 29, 2021.
“The World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative has studied the role of human-induced climate change in the likelihood and intensity of this extreme heat wave,” the report said. “The occurrence of a heat wave with the high daily maximum temperatures observed in the zone 45-52 ºN, 119-123 ºW, was virtually impossible without human-induced climate change.”
Arctic sea ice continues to shrink
September 2020 also saw the second lowest extent of arctic sea ice on record, according to the report.
Greenhouse gas concentrations – which are already at their highest level in three million years – have continued to rise, hitting new records this year, ”Taalas said.
“Fossil fuel emissions in many sectors are back to the same or even higher levels than before the pandemic. Global temperatures in 2017-2021 are among the warmest of any equivalent period since meteorological measurements, with warming evident in many climate indicators such as pack ice, melting glaciers and sea level rise. “
In addition, the maximum extent of sea ice in winter and summer was lower than the 1981-2010 average in each year from 2017-2021.
“There has also been a marked decline in the fraction of older, generally thicker ice,” the report said. “At the peak of March, the fraction of ice over one year old fell from about 60% in 1985 to about 27% in 2021. The fraction of ice over four years old fell from 30% in 1985 to less than 5% in 2021.
In the front of the report, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged the international community to re-commit to achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
“We are still very far from the timetable to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he said.
“This year, fossil fuel emissions have rebounded, greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and severe anthropogenic weather events that have affected health, life and livelihoods on all continents,” said said Guterres.
“Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5 ° C will be impossible, with catastrophic consequences for the people and the planet on which we depend. “
Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn (at) cbc.ca
Related stories from the north:
Finland: Finnish July temperatures in Lapland one to three degrees above average, Yle News
Greenland: The UN launches a trumpet cry on the “irreversible” climatic impacts of man, Thomson reuters
Norway: Polar bears may be inbred as climate change melts arctic ice, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Extreme fire activity continues in Yakutia, Russia, Eye on the Arctic
United States: UN Climate Report Confirms What Has Been Observed In Inuit Nanaat For Decades, According To Inuit Int’l, Eye On The Arctic