The world’s oceans reached their hottest and most acidic levels on record last year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday, as United Nations officials warned that the war in Ukraine threatened global climate commitments.
The oceans saw the most surprising extremes when the WMO detailed a variety of turbulence triggered by climate change in its annual State of the Global Climate report. He said melting ice sheets had helped push sea levels to new heights in 2021.
“Our climate is changing before our eyes. The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
The report follows the latest UN climate assessment, which warned that humanity must drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions or face increasingly catastrophic changes in the global climate.
Taalas told reporters that there was little broadcast time for climate challenges as other crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, made headlines.
Selwin Hart, special adviser on climate action to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, criticized countries that renege on climate commitments because of the conflict, which has raised energy prices and prompted European nations to seek to replace Russia as an energy supplier.
“We’re… seeing a lot of decisions made by a lot of major economies that, frankly, have the potential to secure a high-carbon, high-pollution future and will put our climate goals at risk,” Hart told reporters.
On Tuesday, global stock index giant MSCI warned that the world faces a dangerous rise in greenhouse gases if Russian gas is replaced by coal.
The WMO report said that levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere in 2021 surpassed previous records.
Ocean acidification is one of the four indicators #ClimateChange that broke records in 2021.
Globally, last year’s average temperature was 1.11 C above the pre-industrial average, as the world approaches the 1.5 C threshold beyond which the effects of warming are expected to be drastic.
“It’s only a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record,” Taalas said.
The oceans bear much of the burden of warming and emissions. Bodies of water absorb about 90 percent of the Earth’s stored heat and 23 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from human activity.
The ocean has warmed noticeably faster over the past 20 years, reaching a new high in 2021, and is expected to warm even more, according to the report. That change is likely to take centuries or millennia to reverse, he noted.
The ocean is also now the most acidic in at least 26,000 years, as it absorbs and reacts with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Sea level has risen 4.5 centimeters in the last decade, with an annual rise from 2013 to 2021 more than double what it was from 1993 to 2002.
The WMO also listed individual extreme heat waves, wildfires, floods and other weather-related disasters around the world, noting reports of more than $100 billion in damage.