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A wildfire during a drought in California in 2022 Press Association
Global Warming

Climate change: The last eight years were the hottest in modern records

The World Meteorological Organisation has released its State of the Global Climate report for 2022 – and the forecast is stark.

THE LAST EIGHT years were the warmest of modern records, a new global report has found – despite a weather phenomenon that had a cooling effect.

The World Meteorological Organisation has published its State of the Global Climate report for 2022, which found that global temperatures between 2015 and 2022 were the eight warmest years on record in spite of a cold weather event called a La Niña.

WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas said that “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”.

“For example, in 2022, continuous drought in East Africa, record-breaking rainfall in Pakistan and record-breaking heatwaves in China and Europe affected tens of millions, drove food insecurity, boosted mass migration, and cost billions of dollars in loss and damage,” Professor Taalas said.

In a press conference, he referenced specific record-breaking temperatures in individual countries, including in Ireland.

2022 was Ireland’s hottest year on record, according to Met Éireann, with all-time highest maximum temperature records for July and August both broken (at Phoenix Park on 18 July with 33.0°C and Durrow, Co Laois on 13 August with 32.1°C). 

The WMO report details that the global average temperature in 2022 was 1.15 degrees Celsius higher than the 1850-1900 average.

The years 2015 to 2022 were the eight warmest in records that go back to 1850 “despite three consecutive years of a cooling La Niña – such a ‘triple-dip’ La Niña has happened only three times in the past 50 years”, according to the WMO report.

Over millions of years of history, global temperatures have been both higher and lower than they are at present. However, the conditions that make the planet safely inhabitable for humans rely on a much narrower temperature range.

In 2015, countries committed under the Paris Agreement to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and not to allow it to surpass 2 degrees.

The world is currently around 1.1 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times and is already experiencing impacts of the climate crisis such as heatwaves, droughts and melting ice sheets. 

Global surface temperatures are expected to exceed 1.5 and 2 degrees unless “deep reductions” are made to emissions. 

The WMO report shows that concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – three greenhouse gases that trap heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere – reached their highest level on record in 2021.

Sea level rise has occurred at double the rate of what it was in the 1990s over the past decade, jumping even higher from January 2020.

Sea ice in Antarctica dropped to 1.92 million kilometres squared in February 2022, the lowest level on record and almost 1 million kilometres squared below the long-term average between 1991 and 2020, while the average thickness of glaciers also declined. 

Meanwhile, oceans warmed to new temperature heights and ocean acidification continued to threaten ecosystems. 

The report highlights the devastating effects of the climate crisis on people’s lives and livelihoods.

In Europe, record-breaking heatwaves during the summer saw “extreme heat coupled with exceptionally dry conditions”. More than 15,000 excess deaths linked to the extreme heat were recorded in total across Spain, Germany, the UK, France, and Portugal. 

A drought in the east of Africa has seen rainfall at below-average levels for five consecutive wet seasons, the longest drought in 40 years, leaving over 20 million people facing acute food insecurity in the region.

Flooding in Pakistan in the summer of 2022 killed more than 1,700 people and displaced eight million, causing damage and economic losses worth around $30 billion USD.

The environment is also taking a massive toll due to climate change, the report outlines, affecting natural events such as plant growth and bird migratory patterns.

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