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The Four Key Climate Indicators Broke Records in 2021

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Climate change is real, and weather patterns around the world are shifting right before our eyes, with more dire implications. Despite the efforts of governments and scientists throughout the world, the chance of reversing climate change is dwindling, according to the latest State of Climate report from the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Key Climate Indicators set new records

The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, according to a research presented in Geneva on Wednesday. In the year 2021, four main climate change indicators — greenhouse gas concentrations, sea-level rise, ocean heat, and ocean acidification – all set new highs.
In a video message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned that “time is running out.” He used the release of the WMO flagship report to advocate for immediate action to seize the “low-hanging fruit” of energy system transformation away from fossil fuels’ “death-end.”
Back-to-back Last year, La Nina episodes at the beginning and end of 2021 cooled world temperatures. Despite this, 2021 was one of the warmest years on record, with the average worldwide temperature 1.11 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The report stated that four main climate change indicators “create a consistent picture of a warming planet that effects all areas of the Earth system.”

1. Greenhouse gases

In 2020, greenhouse gas concentrations set a new world high, with carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations reaching 413.2 parts per million globally, or 149 percent of pre-industrial levels. According to the report, they continued to rise in 2021 and early 2022.

2. Rise in Sea Level

According to the report, global mean sea level reached a new record high in 2021, rising an average of 4.5 mm per year from 2013 to 2021. This is more than double the average annual rise of 2.1 mm each year between 1993 and 2002, with the difference “primarily owing to the increased loss of ice mass from the ice sheets,” according to the report.

3. Ocean Heat

According to the report, ocean heat reached a new high last year, surpassing the 2020 value. The upper 2,000 metres of the ocean are anticipated to continue to warm in the future, according to the WMO, “a change that is irreversible on centennial to millennial timescales.”

4. Ocean Acidification

The ocean absorbs roughly 23% of the annual CO2 emissions into the atmosphere caused by humans. While this reduces the increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, CO2 reacts with saltwater and causes ocean acidification. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that open ocean surface acidity is at its highest “in at least 26,000 years” with “very high confidence.”

Climate Changing Before our Eyes

WMO chief Petteri Taalas said that climate was changing “before our eyes”. “The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come. Sea level rise, ocean heat and acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless means to remove carbon from the atmosphere are invented,” he said.