Campaigners warn climate devastation at fever pitch’’

Climate campaigners have responded to the latest report on the increasing effects of climate change warning that 2023 shows no sign of any respite from the negative effects of global warming.

The World Meteorological Organisation’s State of the Global Climate Report warned the speed of change is increasing.

It concluded there are planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean and in the atmosphere caused by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. For global temperature, the years 2015-2022 were the eight warmest on record despite the cooling impact of a La Niña event for the past three years. Melting of glaciers and sea level rise – which again reached record levels in 2022 – will continue for potentially thousands of years.

“While greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and the climate continues to change, populations worldwide continue to be gravely impacted by extreme weather and climate events. For example, in 2022, continuous drought in East Africa, record breaking rainfall in Pakistan and record-breaking heatwaves in China and Europe affected tens of millions, drove food insecurity, boosted mass migration, and cost billions of dollars in loss and damage,” said WMO secretary-general Prof. Petteri Taalas.

“However, collaboration amongst UN agencies has proven to be very effective in addressing humanitarian impacts induced by extreme weather and climate events, especially in reducing associated mortality and economic losses,” he added. “The UN Early Warnings for All Initiative aims to fill the existing capacity gap to ensure that every person on earth is covered by early warning services. At the moment about one hundred countries do not have adequate weather services in place. Achieving this ambitious task requires improvement of observation networks, investments in early warning, hydrological and climate service capacities,” he said.

Lisa Göldner, lead campaigner of Greenpeace’s Fossil Free Revolution campaign, said the solution is stark and must now be urgently implemented.

“Today’s report confirms what we already knew: that fossil-fuelled climate devastation reached a fever pitch in 2022,” she added. “And it’s showing no sign of letting up in 2023, with a deadly heatwave hitting Asia this month and ice sheets melting faster than ever. But it’s business as usual for the fossil fuel industry, whose calling card seems to be greenwashing their public image while continuing to commit devastating climate crimes.

“The solution is staring us in the face: the fossil fuel industry must die – not people. As long as the mighty power of the fossil fuel industry remains unbroken, the climate crisis will continue to escalate. Global governments have to step up; we want all new fossil infrastructure projects stopped this year, global emissions halved by 2030, and ultimately fossil fuels phased out for good. It’s a total no-brainer.”

In addition to climate indicators, the WMO report focuses on impacts. Rising undernourishment has been exacerbated by the compounded effects of hydrometeorological hazards and COVID-19, as well as of protracted conflicts and violence.

Throughout the year, hazardous climate and weather-related events drove new population displacement and worsened conditions for many of the 95 million people already living in displacement at the beginning of the year, according to the report.

The WMO State of the Global Climate report was released ahead of Earth Day 2023. Its key findings echoed the message of UN secretary-general António Guterres for Earth Day.

“We have the tools, the knowledge, and the solutions. But we must pick up the pace. We need accelerated climate action with deeper, faster emissions cuts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius. We also need massively scaled-up investments in adaptation and resilience, particularly for the most vulnerable countries and communities who have done the least to cause the crisis,” said Guterres.

The WMO report follows the release of the State of the Climate in Europe report by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. It complements the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report, which includes data up to 2020.

The report warned of the rising impact on food insecurity.

“As of 2021, 2.3 billion people faced food insecurity, of which 924 million people faced severe food insecurity,” it added. “Projections estimated 767.9 million people facing undernourishment in 2021, 9.8% of the global population. Half of these are in Asia and one third in Africa.

“Heatwaves in the 2022 pre-monsoon season in India and Pakistan caused a decline in crop yields. This, combined with the banning of wheat exports and restrictions on rice exports in India after the start of the conflict in Ukraine, threatened the availability, access, and stability of staple foods within international food markets and posed high risks to countries already affected by shortages of staple foods.”

It has resulted in growing population displacement. “In Somalia, almost 1.2 million people became internally displaced by the catastrophic impacts of drought on pastoral and farming livelihoods and hunger during the year, of whom more than 60 000 people crossed into Ethiopia and Kenya during the same period,” it added. “Concurrently, Somalia was hosting almost 35 000 refugees and asylum seekers in drought-affected areas. A further 512 000 internal displacements associated with drought were recorded in Ethiopia.

“The flooding in Pakistan affected some 33 million people, including about 800 000 Afghan refugees hosted in affected districts. By October, around 8 million people have been internally displaced by the floods with some 585 000 sheltering in relief sites.”