This is another sign that human activities are causing global, long-term changes to ecosystems, with damaging consequences.
Key statements of the report
- While greenhouse gas concentrations reached a tentative new global high of 413.2 ppm or 149% of pre-industrial levels in 2020, they continued to rise in 2021 and early 2022. For example, the monthly CO2 average in April 2022 was 420.23 ppm.
- The upper 2,000 metres of the ocean continued to warm in 2021, while the warming simultaneously penetrated deeper and deeper layers. A change that, according to the report, is irreversible on time scales of hundreds to thousands of years. Much of the ocean experienced at least one "severe" heat wave in 2021 as a result.
- Ocean acidification also continues to increase, with far-reaching negative consequences for marine organisms and ecosystem services. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in its climate report at the beginning of this year that the pH value at the surface of the open ocean is very likely to be as low and acidification as high as it has been for at least 26,000 years.
- Mean global sea level reached a new record high in 2021, largely due to the accelerated loss of ice mass from the ice sheets.
- Many parts of the world were affected by drought last year. The confluence of conflict, extreme weather events and economic shocks reduced the progress made so far in improving global food security. As a result, more and more countries are at risk of famine. Of the total number of undernourished people in 2020, more than half lived in Asia (418 million) and a third in Africa (282 million). Related to this, the number of climate-induced displacements also increased. The countries with the highest displacement figures in 2021 were China (more than 1.4 million), the Philippines (more than 386,000) and Vietnam (more than 664,000).
Germany also contributes to environmental degradation
Germany is also contributing to this development. A recent UNICEF report shows that resource consumption in Germany is too high. If all people consumed as much as the Germans, 2.9 earths would be needed on a global scale. Carbon dioxide emissions in wealthy countries are a particular problem. The 39 countries of the OECD and the European Union considered in the UNICEF report produce an average of nine tonnes of CO2 per person per year. In 1997, the industrialised and newly industrialising countries committed themselves to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in the Kyōto Protocol. Since then, however, the four countries with the highest emissions - Australia, Canada, Luxembourg and the USA - have emitted more than 380 tonnes of CO2 per inhabitant, while in Chile, Costa Rica, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico and Turkey emissions have remained below 100 tonnes. Germany produced 234 tonnes of CO2 per inhabitant during this period.