With Pakistan’s monumental floods and the crop-withering heatwave in China this year as examples of what to expect, a new UN report last week gave an additional and more stark warning: “We are heading in the wrong direction” on climate change.
The new multi-agency report United in Science 2022, coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and published on Sept. 14, “provides an overview of the most recent science related to climate change, its impacts, and responses.”
Its assessment shows a “huge gap between aspirations and reality, warning that ‘the physical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change will be increasingly devastating” without much more ambitious action.
“The science is unequivocal: we are going in the wrong direction,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Greenhouse gas concentrations are continuing to rise, reaching new record highs. Fossil fuel emission rates are now above pre-pandemic levels. The past seven years were the warmest on record.”
Conveying the Global Climate Predictions: 2022–2026, the report says there’s a “93% probability” that the current record for the hottest year globally, set in 2016, will be broken within five years.
It also warns that the continued use of fossil fuels increased to “almost 50% the likelihood that at least one of the years from 2022–2026 will temporarily exceed warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.”
Lessons not learned and failed pledges on climate
The report found that after widespread lockdowns and travel restrictions pushed planet-warming emissions down by 5.4% in 2020, “global CO2 emissions in 2022 (January to May) are 1.2% above” the pre-pandemic levels recorded during the same period in 2019.
This jump, as preliminary data shows, was “driven by increases in the United States, India, and most European countries.”
“This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction. Yet each year we double-down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message at the Launch of the United in Science 2022 Report.
“Floods, droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms, and wildfires are going from bad to worse, breaking records with alarming frequency. There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction,” he emphasized.
Should countries fail to decarbonize in line with what science says is needed to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, WMO and its Environment Programme (UNEP) warn that catastrophes will become commonplace.
In an update to its annual Emissions Gap Report, UNEP stressed on Tuesday that “new national mitigation pledges for 2030 are insufficient” since the current climate policies are leading to estimated global warming of 2.8°C by 2100.
“The ambition of these new pledges would need to be four times higher to get on track to limit warming to 2 °C and seven times higher to get on track to 1.5 °C,” the reports says.
“It is more important than ever that we scale up action on early warning systems to build resilience to current and future climate risks in vulnerable communities. That is why WMO is spearheading a drive to ensure Early Warnings for All in the next five years,” added Prof. Taalas.