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expert reaction to WMO State of the Climate 2021

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has published its State of the Climate report for 2021.


Prof Albert Klein Tank is Director of the Met Office for Climate Science and Services, said:

“The seven years from 2015 to 2021 have been the warmest since the industrial revolution, with 2016 being the warmest year on record.

“Although the planet’s surface temperature last year didn’t break the 2016 record, the upper two kilometres of the ocean reached the warmest level in 2021. Around 90 per cent of the heat from climate change is accumulated in the ocean and last year’s record signals that climate change is progressing.

“The build-up of heat in the ocean and climate system means it is almost inevitable that one of the next five years will be the warmest on record for global surface temperature, beating 2016.”


Prof Andy Turner, University of Reading & National Centre for Atmospheric Science, said:

“The WMO State of the Global Climate report is another stark reminder – if any were needed – of the consequences of humanity’s continuing emissions of greenhouse gases through the burning of fossil fuels.  But these are not speculative theories about the future: they are real changes that we are experiencing now.  As the IPCC 6th Assessment Report noted last year, every region across the globe is already experiencing changes to weather and climate extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones.

“This latest report highlights exceptional heatwaves in 2021 in western North America and the Mediterranean.  In 2022 we can already see such heatwaves happening in India and Pakistan, affecting crop yields, exposing rural workers to health problems and placing large demands on water resources, and the electrical supply for air conditioning.

“Severe monsoon floods in China’s Henan province in July 2021 caused huge economic losses into the billions of dollars.  Continuing climate change will make the rainfall leading to such flooding worse and more frequent, since the warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture.  As with many other climate extremes, every degree of global warming matters – the warmer the planet gets, the worse these extremes will become.

“It is already clear that to avoid worsening the extreme events associated with global warming, we need to make rapid and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane.  In order to prevent warming of 1.5C, these reductions in emissions need to be immediate.”


Dr Shaun Fitzgerald FREng, Director of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge, said:

“This report is important, and helps keep climate change top of mind. The last 7 years, 2015 to 2021, were the seven warmest years on record. Climate change is being sustained. And what of the consequences? Well, let’s make it personal. Hydro-meteorological hazards contributed to internal displacement. The countries with the highest numbers of displacements recorded as of October 2021 were China (more than 1.4 million), Viet Nam (more than 664 000) and the Philippines (more than 600 000).

“These figures are horrible and we need to act now. We will see many more millions of climate refugees as severe weather events increase in frequency and severity, and with sea level rising every year we will see more and more coastal regions being overcome.

“The need for climate repair has never been greater, and unfortunately that need isn’t going away. Reducing emissions is absolutely critical, but our actions there will simply reduce the rate at which the problem is getting worse. We therefore need to go beyond zero emissions, and urgently develop schemes to Remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

“Finally, the report lays bare the changes in Greenland. Rain for the first time fell at Summit Station, the highest point on the Greenland ice sheet at an altitude of 3 216 m. We must preserve the Arctic. So, we have to develop techniques to Refreeze it.

“In summary, we need a 3R’s approach to repair our climate. Only this time it isn’t Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. It is Reduce, Remove and Refreeze.”


Prof Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science, University of Reading, said:

“This annual assessment provides a rigorous update of ongoing climate change documented in the recent IPCC report. Extreme events such as heatwaves, floods and droughts have made the headlines in 2021 and are continuing to become more severe as the climate warms.

“Receiving less fanfare is the record level of ocean heating that clearly measures the accelerating trajectory of climate change. Sea levels are 4.5cm higher than 10 years ago and are not only rising, but rising progressively faster as the warmer oceans expand and melt water from land ice pours into the rivers and seas. Slowing the rate of sea level rise and avoiding further damage from more extreme weather events requires the urgent transition toward a net zero world, slashing carbon dioxide emissions to the extent that they are balanced by extra uptake from the land and ocean.”


Dr Ella Gilbert, regional climate modeller at British Antarctic Survey, said:

“The latest WMO report shows that climate change continues to transform our planet leaving no corner untouched. Extreme events such as droughts, wildfires, flooding, and heatwaves continue to occur with devastating effects on people from the Arctic to India to Australia.

“Sea level rose at an unprecedented rate over the past decade with contributions from mountain glaciers, Greenland, and increasingly Antarctica, growing every year. Record heat at the poles drives record ice losses, and every tenth of a degree of warming increases the risk of irreversible changes such as the retreat of the unstable West Antarctic ice sheet. These kinds of changes would transform coastlines, and exactly how Antarctic ice sheets will respond to ongoing warming remains unclear.

“BAS scientists are working to address this through projects such as the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. This world-leading research will improve our estimates of future sea level rise and help us plan, adapt and avoid the worst consequences of future change.”


Prof Nigel Arnell, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:

“This is yet another report highlighting how we’re changing the climate: a sad litany of heatwaves, storms, floods, droughts and fire. Coupled with COVID-19, economic disruption and conflict, climate change triggered huge human suffering in 2021.

“How much more evidence do we need before we get serious about reducing emissions? Let’s hope that the negotiators meeting at COP27 in Egypt later this year will read this report, along with all the other evidence presented by the IPCC. The report also calls for better warning and forecasting systems. This won’t solve the climate problem, but it is urgently needed to lessen the inevitable impacts of our collective failure to reduce damaging emissions.”


Dr Michaela Hegglin, Associate Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of Reading, and Director of the Institute of Energy and Climate, Stratosphere, Forschungszentrum Jülich, said:

“The WMO state of climate report, based on Earth observations of the climate system, hits home once again the message that climate change is marching on at a rather terrifying speed with clear physical, economic, and societal impacts that test our resilience to breaking point.

“A deeper lesson from the report is that we do not need to look into the future with climate models – we simply can watch what is unfolding in front of our eyes, particularly the combination of extreme events around the world, to see what problems emerge from our actions – or rather our inaction!

“Climate change even emerges as a potential new threat to the stratospheric ozone layer, which we thought well-protected thanks to the world’s concerted efforts around the Montreal Protocol. Extreme cold events in the stratosphere (which are exacerbated by climate change) are seen to lead to prolonged ozone holes during spring in the Southern Hemisphere in recent years, potentially increasing UV radiation at Earth’s surface and leading to adverse impacts on ecosystem and human health.”


Prof Dave Reay, Director of the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, University of Edinburgh, said:

“As thousands of leaders sit down for talks and posh meals at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week, hundreds of millions of people will go to bed hungry. This latest State of the Climate report from the WMO provides the all too familiar litany of record-breaking greenhouse gas concentrations, sea levels and warming; it also pushes the emergency alarm on food security.

“Through an unholy trinity of climate, Covid and conflict, the number of people around the world classed as undernourished has already risen steeply: from 650 million in 2019 to 768 million in 2020. Without rapid action to shore up food security in hard-hit regions like the Horn of Africa, and sustained action to buffer everyone from the spiky shocks of global food consumer prices, hunger is where climate change is really going to bite.”



The WMO State of the Global Climate in 2021 report was published 9am UK TIME on Wednesday 18 May 2022.



Declared interests

Prof Dave Reay: “No interests declared.”

Prof Nigel Arnell: “No conflicts of interest.”

Dr Michaela Hegglin: “No conflicts of interest.”

Prof Klein Tank: “the Met Office led on production of the report for WMO.”

No others received.


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