From rising sea levels to greenhouse gas concentrations, several major climate warming indicators set new records in 2021, while some glaciers reached the point of no return.
Human activity is increasingly damaging the planet, taking a heavy toll on human lives, and jeopardising food and water security. This led to hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses last year, according to the latest 'State of the Climate 2021' report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
“It is just a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record. Our climate is changing before our eyes," WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
"The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come. Sea level rise, ocean heat and acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless means to remove carbon from the atmosphere are invented."
The report stressed that extreme weather as a result of climate change is having the biggest impact. The past seven years have been the warmest on record with global temperature in 2021 reaching about 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels.
This too is being felt in Belgium, which is experiencing the second driest spring on record, in turn negatively affecting agriculture and groundwater levels, among others. In other parts of the world, deadly floods are being seen in South Africa, while India and Pakistan are already sweltering in extreme heat.
'Energy systems need transforming'
The report has been called a "dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption" by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who warned that while time is running out to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, there is an obvious lifeline.
Today’s #StateofClimate report is a dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption.We must end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the renewable energy transition, before we incinerate our only home. https://t.co/QidauIgGKs — António Guterres (@antonioguterres) May 18, 2022
“We must end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the renewable energy transition before we incinerate our only home… Transforming energy systems is low-hanging fruit," he said in a statement.
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Guterres put forward five action points to jump-start the energy transition, which he called the “peace project of the 21st century," and include encouraging knowledge sharing and technological transfer, securing raw materials for renewable energy technologies and shifting subsidies away from fossil fuels.
“While people suffer from high prices at the pump, the oil and gas industry is raking in billions from a distorted market. This scandal must stop," Guterres said.