GLASGOW: Climate scientists released a new report on Sunday (Oct 31) showing that the past seven years are on track to be the hottest recorded in history, as world leaders gathered for the commencement of the United Nations global climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow.
The report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) outlines that record amounts of greenhouse gas emission and accumulated heat “have propelled the planet into uncharted territory”.
It compiles data from multiple agencies and 70 world experts up to the end of September this year and makes use of key climate metrics including temperature, extreme weather, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, sea ice and glaciers.
“We’re showing you what’s happening in the real atmosphere. We have again broken records with the main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. It’s bad news,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas during a presentation of the report findings at COP26.
He noted that widespread lockdowns and the closure of major polluting industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic had not made a significant impact on the atmosphere.
EFFECTS OF LA NINA, EL NINO
Despite La Nina conditions contributing to moderately cooler weather conditions in the Tropical Pacific region this year, its impact will not reverse any wider trend of increasing global temperatures, the report concluded.
Taalas said future El Nino conditions would likely result in new record heat levels.
The report also found that sea level rise around the world has accelerated since 2013 to a new high this year, while ocean acidification and warming continued.
The past seven years have seen accelerated losses of ice mass from glaciers and ice sheets, including in Antarctica, while greenhouse gases concentrations reached new highs last year.
“From the ocean depths to mountain tops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events, ecosystems and communities around the globe are being devastated. COP26 must be a turning point for people and the planet," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement in response to the report.
This latest data is expected to further inform negotiations over the next two weeks in Glasgow. COP26 is being framed as a last chance for world leaders to make the necessary agreements and take sufficient actions to halt such drastic temperature rise and the various effects that come from it.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa formally opened COP26 on Sunday, calling on countries to strive for a collective positive outcome during the talks that can build global momentum on climate action for the next decade and beyond.
“We stand at a pivotal point in history. Humanity faces several stark but clear choices,” she said in her opening speech.
“Success at COP26 is entirely possible. We are all facing the same climate emergency. We must all be part of the solution.
“Let us rise to the enormous challenge of our times, this pivotal point in history — and achieve success for not just our present generation, but all generations to come,” she said.
The new president of COP26, Alok Sharma, also set out the agenda that the United Kingdom would be pushing throughout its presidency period.
“At COP26 I’m calling on countries to work together, to mobilise finance, to increase action to adapt to climate impacts, to complete the Paris rulebook after six years and accelerate action this decade to keep 1.5 degrees within reach,” he said at a media conference.
“I remain hopeful.
LACK OF CONCRETE MEASURES
The G20 summit in Rome wound up on Sunday with leaders agreeing on a final statement to take "meaningful and effective" action to limit global warming, but refraining from many concrete policy measures, which will now be focused on in Glasgow.
Leaders did not put a date on the end of global power production, rather only promised to phase out overseas coal financing by this year, a pledge that most major coal financiers had already agreed to this year.
They also did not agree to set 2050 as a deadline to reach net zero emissions. China, India and Russia are among the heavy polluting nations not to sign up to that level of ambition.
The G20 nations are responsible for more than 80 per cent of global emissions, and Sharma said “they can make or break” the hope of reaching global warming to within 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
“I know negotiations have not been easy,” Sharma said.
“We are not where we need to be. That’s something we have to be honest about,” said Espinosa during the same press briefing.
The Leaders Summit, involving statements of more than 100 national leaders will take place on Monday and Tuesday, where some are expected to further strengthen their respective targets towards net zero.