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As we have seen this summer, weather conditions are becoming increasingly extreme in several areas of the world. Scientists have been warning about the consequences of climate change for years, but they say leaders and businesses are not acting fast enough. According to a new report from the United in Science collective, the world is moving in the wrong direction and the effects of climate change will become more and more devastating.
Reporting, published on September 13, compiles an inventory of greenhouse gas concentrations, global temperature trends and various climate “tipping points”. The conclusions are not good: harmful emissions from fossil fuels continue to rise and have already exceeded pre-pandemic levels. In terms of temperatures, the past seven years have been the warmest on record.
“ There is a 48% chance that for at least one year in the next five years the average annual temperature will be temporarily 1.5°C above the 1850-1900 average », clarifies the press release World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The gap between climate goals and reality is huge, and experts fear tragic physical and socioeconomic consequences. It is now urgent for WMO to step up action on early warning systems to protect the most vulnerable population groups.
Insufficient measures to limit global warming
Heat waves, droughts and fires in Europe, China and the United States, floods in Pakistan… This summer was just a harbinger of weather conditions that will become more frequent, even common, in the future. ” The new scale of these disasters is not natural. They are the price of human dependence on fossil fuels said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. According to him, we are heading straight for “uncharted territories of destruction”.
It is now known that extreme weather events are becoming more intense and frequent due to human activities and their impact on the climate. But despite the warnings, despite the recent climate events, it seems that the message is not yet well understood and efforts to mitigate emissions are insufficient. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide continue to rise (despite temporary reductions in emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic). The data even shows that global CO2 emissions from January to May 2022 are 1.2% higher than those recorded during the same period in 2019! Unfortunately, the invasion of Ukraine and skyrocketing gas prices have pushed some governments back to fossil fuels.
The report highlights that the ambition of commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 must be four times higher to limit warming to +2°C and seven times higher to be in line with the +1.5°C target set by the Paris Agreement. In this regard, experts point out that this target refers to long-term warming: in isolation, years above 1.5°C should occur “with increasing regularity”.
Estimates bear this out: the average global annual near-surface temperature for each year from 2022 to 2026 is projected to be 1.1°C to 1.7°C higher than pre-industrial levels. Small consolation: there is only a small chance (10%) that the five-year average will exceed the +1.5°C mark. However, this average temperature will most likely be higher than the average of the previous five years (2017-2021).
The need for early warning systems for multiple risks
If governments maintain their current environmental policies, experts predict that global warming in the 21st century will be between 2.3 and 3.3°C. Cities – home to 55% of the world’s population – will bear the brunt of the consequences: globally, more than 1.6 billion people living in more than 970 cities with average 3-month temperatures of at least 35°C will be regularly exposed by the 2050s, the report predicts .
This is what India and Pakistan suffered between March and May this year. In some cities, the temperature reached or approached 50°C. This extremely intense and early heat wave killed 90 people and caused power outages and water shortages for millions of residents. Since 2010, heat waves in India have killed more than 6,500 people, reports France Info. China also experienced a long heat wave during the summer, which was not without consequences. The difference is that in India, a large portion of the population lives in low-income neighborhoods, making it even more vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
Coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to climate change: they will have to deal with increasingly frequent and extensive flooding due to rising sea levels. Cities play an important role in the fight against climate change by implementing inclusive, urgent and larger mitigation measures and increasing the adaptive capacity of billions of people. summarizes the message.
Climate tipping points are now under close scrutiny, each of which could lead to dramatic consequences on a global scale. The melting of the polar ice caps and the drying of the Amazon rainforest are of great concern because of the cascading global consequences these phenomena entail. The number of weather, climate and water-related disasters has increased fivefold over the past 50 years, causing $202 million in losses every day.
If greenhouse gas emissions fail to be mitigated, it will be imperative to adapt to climate change and the extreme events it will cause. Specialists are now urging world leaders to create early warning systems for multiple risks that can save lives and limit property damage. It turns out that less than half of the world’s countries have them: Africa, small island states and developing countries generally do not have these systems.
” One of the main international priorities is to ensure that everyone on the planet is protected “, warn the experts. Substantial financial assistance from the richest countries – responsible for most CO2 emissions – is highly desirable and expected to support the most vulnerable developing countries. COP27, which will be held in November in Egypt, will be an opportunity to define new action plans to address this climate emergency.