We have faced several dramatic weather disasters which claimed far too many lives and livelihoods in 2022. From extreme floods to heat and drought, weather and climate disasters affected millions and cost billions, indicating that climate change has intensified this year, and in the next in 2023, the world would need greater preparedness to face it.
The Provisional State of the Global Climate in 2022, the full and final report of which would come out in March 2023, has said that the world has been on the warmest track for the last eight years despite the persistence of a cooling La Niña, now in its third year. This condition is fuelled by ever-rising greenhouse gas concentrations and accumulated heat in the atmosphere.
Concentration of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – reached record highs in 2021, with annual increase in methane concentration was the highest on record. Real time data from specific locations show levels of the three gases continued to increase in 2022.
Though the global temperature figures would be released in mid-January 2023, the provisional report has indicated that the cooling impact will be short-lived and not reverse the long-term warming trend caused by record levels of heat trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
2022 would not be the warmest year on record, but will be fifth or sixth warmest, and will be the tenth successive year that temperatures have reached at least 1°C above pre-industrial levels – likely to breach the 1.5°C limit of the Paris Agreement of 2015. The year topped many national heat records throughout the world.
The pre-monsoon period was exceptionally hot in India and Pakistan. Pakistan had its hottest March and hottest April on Record. The heat caused a decline in crop yields. This combined with the banning of wheat exports and restrictions on rice exports in India are threatening the international food markets and posing risks to countries already affected by shortage of staple foods.
India and Pakistan experienced soaring heat in March and April. China had the most extensive and long-lasting heatwave since national records began and the second-driest summer on record. Parts of the northern hemisphere were exceptionally hot and dry. A large area centred around the central-northern part of Argentina, as well as in southern Bolivia, central Chile, and most of Paraguay and Uruguay, experienced record-breaking temperatures during two consecutive heatwaves in late November and early December 2022. Record breaking heatwaves have been observed in China, Europe, North and South America. The long-lasting drought in the Horn of Africa threatens a humanitarian catastrophe. While large parts of Europe sweltered in repeated episodes of extreme heat, the United Kingdom hit a new national record in July, when the temperature topped more than 40°C.
Rains have also broken records. The Indian Monsoon onset was earlier and withdrawal later than normal this year. The majority of Indian subcontinent received high rainfall which flooded several parts of the region. There was significant flooding in India at various stages during the monsoon, particularly in the north-east in June, with over 700 deaths reported from flooding and landslides, and a further 900 from lightning. Floods also triggered 663000 displacements in the Indian state of Assam.
Record breaking rain in July and August led to extensive flooding in Pakistan, which caused at least 1,700 deaths, displaced 7.9 million and affected 33 million people. One third of Pakistan was flooded, with major economic losses and human casualties.
In East Africa, rainfall has been below average throughout four consecutive wet seasons – the longest in 40 years – triggering a major humanitarian crisis affecting an estimated 18.4 to 19.3 million of people, devastating agriculture, and killing livestock, especially in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Sea levels, which have doubled since 1993; ocean heat content; and acidification are also at recorded highs. The past two and half years alone account for 10 per cent of overall sea level rise. It has risen by nearly 10 mm since January 2020. Ocean heat was at record levels in 2021 (the latest year assessed), with the warming rate particularly high in the past 20 years.
An exceptionally heavy toll on glaciers in the European Alps was recorded with initial indications of record-shattering melt. The Greenland ice sheet lost mass for the 26th consecutive year and it rained – rather than snowed – on the summit for the first time in September. Six per cent glacier ice volume lost between 2021 and 2022 in Switzerland, and the net decline from 2001 to 2022 was more than a third.
Taken together, these changes to the global climate have undermined the global ability to achieve sustainable development, directly impacting SDG – 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 13, 14 and 15. However, the picture is far from complete. Significant gaps still exist for many key climate parameters, including ocean acidification (SDG 14) and methane emission (SDG 13).
Keeping these in mind, early warnings, increasing investment in the basic global observing system and building resilience to extreme weather and climate should be priority in 2023, that WMO has set for itself, and the government need to set for themselves. There is a clear need to enhance preparedness for extreme weather events. (IPA Service)