Climate change is heating up, the UN warns

2 November 2021

Photo: Pixabay/jodylehigh

The last seven years have been the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization, which has warned that we are heading into “uncharted territory” on climate change.

The United Nations-affiliated body said that based on data for the first nine months of 2021 this year will likely be between the fifth and seventh warmest year ever recorded. And that is only because the cooling effect of the La Nina phenomenon lowered temperatures earlier this year.

The average temperature for this year was 1.09 degrees Celsius higher than during pre-industrial times while the average temperature between 2002 and 2021 exceeded the threshold of 1 Celsius above the mid-19th century, according to the WMO.

This relentless warming trend is set to have dire consequences globally in coming years and our ability to keep warming within a manageable level is being compromised by a lack of meaningful action on the climate, the UN said.

“Extreme events are the new norm,” said WMO’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “There is mounting scientific evidence that some of these bear the footprint of human-induced climate change.”

Prolonged droughts, frequent heat waves, devastating wild fires, rising sea levels, increased acidification of the oceans and routine crop failures are some of the results of relentless warming, experts say.

Alarmingly, by the end of the century the rise in sea levels could exceed two metres, which could lead to the displacement of an estimated 630 million people worldwide, perhaps more.

“The consequences of that are unimaginable,” said Jonathan Bamber, director of the Bristol Glaciology Centre. “What is required now is profound and comprehensive action by every nation and state actor to limit further and deeper climate breakdown,” he stressed.

No part of the planet will be left unaffected by climate change and urgent actions on mitigating its effects are of vital importance, experts say.

“From the ocean depths to mountain tops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events, ecosystems and communities around the globe are being devastated,” noted Antonio Guterres, the global body’s secretary-general.

Guterres added that the ongoing COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, “must be a turning point for people and planet” during which world leaders need to hammer out meaningful climate mitigation plans.

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