State of Global Climate Report 2021

The State of the Global Climate Report 2021 has been released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). According to the report, four key climate change indicators which are sea-level rise, greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean acidification, and ocean heat set new records in 2021. This shows that human activities are causing planetary level changes in the ocean, land, and the atmosphere, with long-lasting and harmful effects on ecosystems and sustainable development.

What does the report say about extreme weather?

Due to extreme weather, the world has witnessed hundreds of billions of dollars worth of economic losses. It has also wreaked a heavy toll on the lives of humans and their well-being and triggered shocks for water and food displacement and security that have accentuated in the year 2022. The report has confirmed that the past seven years are the warmest seven years that have been recorded. In 2021, the average global temperature was around 1.11 (± 0.13) °C above the pre-industrial level.

Which organizations have contributed to this report?

Numerous experts have contributed to this report including:

  • National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs)
  • Regional Climate Centres
  • Global Data and Analysis Centers
  • Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW)
  • World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)
  • Global Cryosphere Watch
  • UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • World Food Programme (WFP)

What does this report highlight?

  • Greenhouse gas concentrations: In 2020, the concentrations of greenhouse gases reached a new global high as carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) globally which is 149 percent of the pre-industrial level. The report also shows that they continued to increase in early 2022 and 2021.
  • Global Annual Mean Temperature: In 2021, this was around 1.11 ±0.13 °C above the pre-industrial average of the 1850s and the 1900s. This was less warm compared to some recent years due to the cooling La Niña conditions at the beginning and end of the year. On record, the seven warmest years are from 2015 to 2021.
  • Ocean Heat: This was a record high. In 2021, the upper 2000m depth of oceans continued to warm up. It is expected to rise in the future, a change that is irreversible. The rates of ocean warming have increased in the past two decades. In 2021, much of the ocean had experienced a minimum of one strong marine heatwave.
  • Ocean acidification: 23 percent of the annual emissions of anthropogenic CO2 are absorbed by the oceans. This reacts with seawater which leads to ocean acidification. This is threatening the ecosystem, organisms, tourism, food security, and coastal protection.
  • Global Mean Sea Level: In 2021, it reached a new record high after it increased from 2013 to 2021 at an average of 4.5 mm per year. This is more than double what was recorded for the years between 1993 and 2002. This is mainly attributed to the accelerated loss of ice sheets and ice mass. This has impacted millions of coastal dwellers and increased tropical cyclones’ vulnerability.
  • Food security: Due to economic shocks, extreme weather events, and the COVID-19 pandemic the food security of the globe worsened.
  • Displacement: Due to hydrometeorological hazards, internal displacement has increased.
  • Ecosystems: The ecosystems have been affected due to the changing climate. A lot of the world’s ecosystems such as water towers, mountain ecosystems, etc, are degrading at an unmatched rate. The increase in temperature is increasing the risk of irreversible coastal and marine ecosystem loss.

How does the State of the Global Climate Report 2021 complement the IPCC Sixth Assessment report?

The IPCC Sixth Assessment report which has included data up to the year 2019 has been complemented by the State of the Global Climate report 2021. The new report of the WMO is accompanied by a story map and provides practical examples as well as information for policy-makers to check how the indicators of climate change that were outlined in the IPCC reports have played out during the recent years across the globe. It also highlights the implications of extremes that have been felt at the regional and national levels in 2021. This report of the WMO will be used as an official document for COP27, which is scheduled to take place in Egypt later this year.

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