A United Nations report, released at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, underscores a stark acceleration in climate change, primarily driven by escalating greenhouse gas emissions. The report, published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), dissects the critical changes observed from 2011 to 2020, a period marked by rapidly rising sea levels, melting ice, and global temperatures soaring 1.1 degrees Celsius above late 19th-century levels.
Unprecedented Ice Melt and Sea Level Rise
Detailed in the report is an alarming trend of ice loss in the polar regions and high mountains. Greenland lost an average of 251 gigatonnes of ice annually during this period, while Antarctica lost 143 gigatonnes. This unprecedented glacial melt has severe implications for the water supplies of millions across the globe. With glaciers thinning by about one meter per year, the Antarctic continental ice sheet lost nearly 75% more ice between 2011-2020 than it did in the previous decade. Consequently, the rate of sea level rise surged to 4.5 millimeters per year, a significant increase from the 2.9 millimeters reported in the previous decade.
The Dire Consequences of Extreme Weather Events
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas highlighted the imminent need for urgent action to combat climate change. Each passing decade since the 1990s has been warmer than the last, with no immediate signs of abatement. Extreme weather events linked to climate change, including droughts, heatwaves, floods, tropical storms, and wildfires, have compounded challenges in addressing hunger and poverty. These calamities have wreaked havoc on infrastructure and agriculture, leading to acute water shortages and mass displacements.
Positive Developments Amid the Crisis
Despite the grim scenario, the report also points to some positive developments. The reduction in disaster-related deaths due to improved early warning systems, the shrinking of the Antarctic ozone hole, and increased climate protection spending are notable strides. Nevertheless, Taalas stressed the urgency to amplify these efforts significantly. According to him, climate protection funding needs to increase sevenfold by 2030 to effectively counter the threats posed by climate change.