Climate change causing 'huge human suffering'
18 May 2022
Prof Andy Turner, University of Reading & National Centre for Atmospheric Science, said:
“The WMO State of the Global Climate report is another stark reminder – if any were needed – of the consequences of humanity’s continuing emissions of greenhouse gases through the burning of fossil fuels. But these are not speculative theories about the future: they are real changes that we are experiencing now. As the IPCC 6th Assessment Report noted last year, every region across the globe is already experiencing changes to weather and climate extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones.
“This latest report highlights exceptional heatwaves in 2021 in western North America and the Mediterranean. In 2022 we can already see such heatwaves happening in India and Pakistan, affecting crop yields, exposing rural workers to health problems and placing large demands on water resources, and the electrical supply for air conditioning.
“Severe monsoon floods in China’s Henan province in July 2021 caused huge economic losses into the billions of dollars. Continuing climate change will make the rainfall leading to such flooding worse and more frequent, since the warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. As with many other climate extremes, every degree of global warming matters – the warmer the planet gets, the worse these extremes will become.
“It is already clear that to avoid worsening the extreme events associated with global warming, we need to make rapid and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane. In order to prevent warming of 1.5C, these reductions in emissions need to be immediate.”
Prof Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science, University of Reading, said:
“This annual assessment provides a rigorous update of ongoing climate change documented in the recent IPCC report. Extreme events such as heatwaves, floods and droughts have made the headlines in 2021 and are continuing to become more severe as the climate warms.
“Receiving less fanfare is the record level of ocean heating that clearly measures the accelerating trajectory of climate change. Sea levels are 4.5cm higher than 10 years ago and are not only rising, but rising progressively faster as the warmer oceans expand and melt water from land ice pours into the rivers and seas. Slowing the rate of sea level rise and avoiding further damage from more extreme weather events requires the urgent transition toward a net zero world, slashing carbon dioxide emissions to the extent that they are balanced by extra uptake from the land and ocean.”
Prof Nigel Arnell, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:
“This is yet another report highlighting how we’re changing the climate: a sad litany of heatwaves, storms, floods, droughts and fire. Coupled with COVID-19, economic disruption and conflict, climate change triggered huge human suffering in 2021.
“How much more evidence do we need before we get serious about reducing emissions? Let’s hope that the negotiators meeting at COP27 in Egypt later this year will read this report, along with all the other evidence presented by the IPCC. The report also calls for better warning and forecasting systems. This won’t solve the climate problem, but it is urgently needed to lessen the inevitable impacts of our collective failure to reduce damaging emissions.”
Dr Michaela Hegglin, Associate Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of Reading, and Director of the Institute of Energy and Climate, Stratosphere, Forschungszentrum Jülich, said:
“The WMO state of climate report, based on Earth observations of the climate system, hits home once again the message that climate change is marching on at a rather terrifying speed with clear physical, economic, and societal impacts that test our resilience to breaking point.
“A deeper lesson from the report is that we do not need to look into the future with climate models - we simply can watch what is unfolding in front of our eyes, particularly the combination of extreme events around the world, to see what problems emerge from our actions - or rather our inaction!
“Climate change even emerges as a potential new threat to the stratospheric ozone layer, which we thought well-protected thanks to the world’s concerted efforts around the Montreal Protocol. Extreme cold events in the stratosphere (which are exacerbated by climate change) are seen to lead to prolonged ozone holes during spring in the Southern Hemisphere in recent years, potentially increasing UV radiation at Earth’s surface and leading to adverse impacts on ecosystem and human health.”