ISLAMABAD: The world’s glaciers melted at an alarming rate last year, and conserving them is practically a lost cause, according to a UN agency assessment released on Friday, adding that record levels of greenhouse gases have produced “planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean, and in the atmosphere.”
The last eight years have been the warmest on record, with concentrations of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide reaching new highs, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
“Antarctic sea ice fell to its lowest extent on record, and melting of some European glaciers was literally off the charts,” the World Meteorological Organization said as it released its annual climate report.
According to the ‘State of the Global Climate 2022’ report, sea levels are also at an all-time high, rising at a rate of 4.62 mm per year between 2013 and 2022 — more than double the rate between 1993 and 2002.
High temperatures were recorded in the oceans, which hold around 90% of the heat trapped on Earth by greenhouse gases.
Global warming and quickly melting glaciers are also terrible news for Pakistan. The country has more glaciers than any other country outside of the poles.
Last September, record monsoon rains and melting glaciers uprooted millions of people and killed at least 1,700 people in a disaster blamed on climate change.
“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,” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.
“For example, in 2022, continuous drought in East Africa, record-breaking rainfall in Pakistan, and record-breaking heat waves in China and Europe affected tens of millions, drove food insecurity, boosted mass migration, and cost billions of dollars in loss and damage,” he explained.
The new WMO report comes with a story map that illustrates policymakers how the climate change indicators are playing out, as well as how better technology makes the shift to renewable energy cheaper and more accessible than ever.
According to the report, hazardous climate and weather-related events spurred fresh population displacement and worsened conditions for many of the 95 million people who were already displaced at the start of the year.
The paper also focuses on ecosystems and the environment, demonstrating how climate change affects natural recurrent phenomena such as tree blossoming and bird migration.
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations all reached new highs in 2021, the most recent year for which consolidated worldwide values are available (1984-2021).
From 2020 to 2021, the annual increase in methane concentration was the biggest on record. Real-time data from specific places demonstrate that the levels of the three greenhouse gases have continued to increase in 2022.
Long-term studies of reference glaciers revealed an average thickness drop of more than -1.3 metres between October 2021 and October 2022. This loss is significantly greater than the ten-year average.
Since 2015, six of the ten biggest negative mass balance years on record (1950-2022) have happened. Since 1970, the cumulative thickness reduction has been about 30 metres.
Measurements on glaciers in High Mountain Asia, western North America, South America, and areas of the Arctic show significant glacier mass reductions as well. Some mass gains occurred in Iceland and Northern Norway as a result of above-average precipitation and a relatively cold summer.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), glaciers worldwide lost more than 6,000 gigatonnes of ice between 1993 and 2019. This is the equivalent of 75 lakes the size of Lac Leman (commonly known as Lake Geneva), Western Europe’s largest lake. For the 26th year in a straight, the Greenland Ice Sheet had a negative total mass balance.
As of 2021, 2.3 billion people were food insecure, with 924 million experiencing extreme food insecurity. According to projections, 767.9 million people, or 9.8 percent of the global population, would have malnutrition in 2021. Half of these are in Asia, with the remaining one-third in Africa.
Heat waves in India and Pakistan during the 2022 pre-monsoon season reduced crop production. This, combined with the ban on wheat exports and restrictions on rice exports in India following the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict, posed a threat to the availability, access, and stability of staple foods in international food markets, posing significant risks to countries already experiencing staple food shortages.