Geneva: The abundance of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere once again reached a new record last year, and this trend has continued in 2021, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
Concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas, reached 413.2 parts per million in 2020 and is 149% of the pre-industrial level. Methane (CH4) is 262% and nitrous oxide (N2O) is 123% of the levels in 1750 when human activities started disrupting Earth’s natural equilibrium. The economic slowdown from COVID-19 did not have any discernible impact on the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases and their growth rates, although there was a temporary decline in new emissions.
The Bulletin, which was released on October 25, 2021, shows that from 1990 to 2020, radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – by long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 47%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase. The numbers are based on monitoring by WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network.
As long as emissions continue, global temperature will continue to rise. Little surprise therefore, that another research, published today, showed that Asia had its warmest year on record in 2020, with the mean temperature 1.39 °C above the 1981–2010 average, and the average sea surface temperatures too reached record high values in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean, last year.
Sea surface temperatures and ocean warming in and around Asia are increasing more than the global average – at three times the rate in the case of the Arabian sea, warned The State of the Climate in Asia 2020, a new multi-agency report coordinated by the WMO, which was released today.
Sea-surface temperature changes and ocean heat directly affect the ocean-atmosphere coupling and thus regional and global circulation, as well as marine life. While global average sea level has risen at a rate of 3.3 mm per year since the early 1990s, the North Indian Ocean and the Northwest Pacific Ocean are experiencing sea level rise significantly higher than the global mean, the report stated.
The report pointed out that sea surface temperatures in parts of the Arctic Ocean have also been warming at three times the global average during the 1982-2020 period. The Barents sea, in the northern Arctic, in particular, is identified as a climate change hotspot, with sea-ice loss in turn leading to more ocean warming. The Arctic sea ice minimum extent (after the summer melt) in 2020 was the second lowest on the satellite record since 1979. The Eurasian shelf seas and the Northern Sea Route were completely ice-free in summer. (Sea-ice extent is a key indicator of the changes in the polar regions and it shapes not only the regional climate but also the global climate).
Asia is home to approximately 100 000 km2 of glaciers centred on the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas. It contains the largest volumes of ice outside of the polar regions and is the source of 10 important Asian rivers. The report warned that glacier retreat was accelerating and it was now projected that glacier mass will decrease by 20% to 40% by 2050, affecting the lives and livelihoods of about 750 million people in the region. This, it warned, has major ramifications for global sea level, regional water cycles and local hazards (such as landslides and avalanches). Glaciers retreat and the dwindling of freshwater resources will have major repercussions for future water security and ecosystems in Asia, and the decline of coral reefs will negatively affect food security, it warned.
There were many notable heat extremes during 2020, including a temperature of 38.0°C at Verkhoyansk, Russian Federation, provisionally the highest known temperature anywhere north of the Arctic Circle. Moreover, the East Asian and South Asian summer monsoons were both unusually active, This, combined with frequent tropical cyclones, caused floods and landslides, leading to loss of life and displacement in many countries.
Intense cyclones, monsoon rains and floods hit highly exposed and densely populated areas in South Asia and East Asia and led to the displacement of millions of people in China, Bangladesh, India, Japan, Pakistan, Nepal and Viet Nam in 2020.
Cyclone Amphan, one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded, hit the Sundarbans region between India and Bangladesh in May 2020 displacing 2.4 million people in India and 2.5 million people in Bangladesh.
Tropical cyclones, floods and droughts induced an estimated average annual loss (AAL) of several hundred billion dollars, according to ESCAP. Losses were estimated at approximately US$ 238 billion in China, US$ 87 billion in India and US$ 83 billion in Japan.
Extreme weather and climate change impacts across Asia in 2020 caused the loss of life of thousands of people, displaced millions of others and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while wreaking a heavy toll on infrastructure and ecosystems. Sustainable development is threatened, with food and water insecurity, health risks and environmental degradation on the rise, the report stated, adding that many weather and climate-related displacements in Asia are prolonged, with people unable to return home, integrate locally or settle elsewhere.
“Weather and climate hazards, especially floods, storms, and droughts, had significant impacts in many countries of the region, affecting agriculture and food security, contributing to increased displacement and vulnerability of migrants, refugees, and displaced people, worsening health risks, and exacerbating environmental issues and losses of natural ecosystems,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“Combined, these impacts take a significant toll on long term sustainable development, and progress toward the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals in particular,” he said.
– global bihari bureau