Living With Climate Change: Global warming means sea-level rise in past decade doubles 1990s increase, U.N. says as COP27 begins

United States

Earth is getting warmer and its oceans rising faster than just a few decades ago, the United Nations’ chief meteorological arm said in a Sunday report that serves as a motivational backdrop to the hundreds of officials gathering in Egypt to keep up pressure on climate-change efforts.

The annual report from the World Meteorological Organization didn’t necessarily shed new light on the situation, but reinforced the dramatic man-made changes that have sparked expensive and deadly outcomes.

Read: What is COP27? Key issues for markets to watch as U.N. climate talks kick off in Egypt

The WMO said that sea level rise in the past decade was double what it was in the 1990s. And since January 2020, that rise has jumped at a higher rate yet. Since the decade began, seas are rising at 5 millimeters a year (.2 inches) compared to 2.1 millimeters (.08 inches) in the 1990s.

“The greater the warming, the worse the impacts,” said WMO chief Petter Taalas, who launched the report at an event held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the venue for this year’s U.N. Conference of Parties, or COP27.

“We have such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now that the lower 1.5 degree of the Paris Agreement is barely within reach. It’s already too late for many glaciers and the melting will continue for hundreds if not thousands of years, with major implications for water security,” he said.

What’s more, the last eight years have been the warmest on record, the WMO said. With temperatures in just the past three years held back only because of a rare three-year La Niña weather phenomenon, the organization said.

Levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide all reached record high levels, with potent methane increasing at a record pace, the report said.

Ice melt is also changing oceans, and at a worrisome rate.

For the 26th year in a row, Greenland lost ice when all types of ice are factored in. And, the volume of glacier snow in Switzerland dropped by more than one-third from 2001 to 2022, the report said.

Famous glaciers that have an impact on oceans, and on tourism and cultural significance, were tagged in a separate report this week. That release said some of the world’s most famous glaciers are at great risk of disappearing by 2050 due to global warming.

The most worrisome aspect of the prediction is that the demise of some glaciers, including the beloved Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and the U.S.’s Yellowstone and Yosemite, could come about no matter the degree of temperature rise, according to a UNESCO report. That’s because Earth has already warmed considerably in the industrial era.

On top of the glacial impact in rising oceans, importantly, 90% of the heat trapped on Earth goes into the ocean. That means top depths are getting warmer faster. The rate of warming the last 15 years is 67% faster than since 1971, the report said.

It is important to stop the rise and warming of oceans in large part because it makes waters more acidic and threatens the fish and other food sources that many animals and people rely on. Further, coastal erosion and storm surge is increasingly worrisome, especially given the popularity of building with an ocean view and water access.

That ocean heat “will continue to warm in the future — a change which is irreversible on centennial to millennial time scales,” the report said.

The Associated Press contributed.