Scientists say 2022 tied as world's fifth-warmest year on record

As global warming is destroying the lives of millions across the globe, US scientists Thursday said last year was the world’s joint fifth-warmest on record and the last nine years were the nine warmest since pre-industrial times, putting the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to 1.5C in serious jeopardy.

Like a fever, “every tenth of a degree matters and things break down and that’s what we’re seeing,” Climate Central Chief Meteorologist Bernadette Woods Placky.

According to the scientists, 2022 tied with 2015 as the fifth-warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880 despite the presence of the La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean, which generally lowers global temperatures slightly. The world’s average global temperature is now 1.1C to 1.2C higher than in pre-industrial times.

Scientists say about 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases goes into the upper 6,561 feet of the ocean (2000 meters), and figures released Wednesday show 2022 was another record year for ocean heat.

“There’s a real good connection between the patterns of ocean warming, the stratification, and then the weather that we experience in our daily lives on land,” including stronger hurricanes and rising seas, said study co-author John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it had ranked 2022 as the sixth warmest since 1880. European Union scientists this week said 2022 was the fifth warmest year in their records.

Climate assessments produce slightly different rankings depending on the data sources used and the way records account for minor data alterations over time, for example, a weather station being moved to a new location.

The NASA said temperatures were increasing by more than 0.2C per decade, putting the world on track to blow past the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to 1.5C to avoid its most devastating consequences.

“At the rate that we’re going, it’s not going to take more than two decades to get us to that. And the only way that we’re not going to do that is if we stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Schmidt said he expected 2023 to be slightly warmer than 2022, due to a weaker La Nina cooling phenomenon.

“The reason for the warming trend is that human activities continue to pump enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and the long-term planetary impacts will also continue,” he added.

“The global mean temperature will be even higher in 10 years from now,” said ETH Zurich climate scientist Sonia Seneviratne, adding that unless countries stopped burning CO2-emitting fossil fuels temperatures would continue to climb.

The changing climate fuelled weather extremes across the planet in 2022. Europe suffered its hottest summer on record, while in Pakistan floods killed 1,700 people and wrecked infrastructure, drought ravaged crops in Uganda and wildfires ripped through Mediterranean countries.

Despite most of the world’s major emitters pledging to eventually slash their net emissions to zero, global CO2 emissions continue to rise.

Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere last year reached levels not experienced on earth for 3 million years, Schmidt said.

At this year’s COP28 climate conference, countries will formally assess their progress towards the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C goal – and the far faster emissions cuts needed to meet it.

COP28 host the United Arab Emirates on Thursday appointed the head of its state-owned oil company as president of the conference, sparking concerns among campaigners and scientists about the fossil fuel industry’s influence in the talks.

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