By Robin Gomes
The United Nations chief on Thursday called for “immediate, rapid and large-scale” cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming and avert climate disaster. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned governments that climate change is proceeding faster than predicted and fossil fuel emissions have already bounced back from a pandemic dip.
He made the remarks in a video message at the launch of a report in Geneva by the UN World Meteorological Organization titled, United in Science 2021. The 32-page report is a compilation by 6 UN bodies and scientific organizations of the latest climate science information that gives a unified assessment of the state of our Earth system.
The report, released on the day the UN marks International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, says that the world is likely to miss the Paris agreement climate target despite a pandemic downturn in carbon emissions. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and Global Carbon Project contributed to the United in Science 2021report.
Record weather conditions
“We have reached the tipping point on the need for climate action,” Guterres said. “The disruption to our climate and our world is worse than we thought, and it is moving faster than predicted. Yet, we are far from meeting the goals of the 5-year-old Paris agreement.”
The UN chief said that the WMO report points out just “how far off course” the world is. The past 5-year period has been among the hottest on record and we continue to destroy the things on which we depend for life on earth. Recent extreme weather conditions - from Hurricane Ida and record-breaking rains in New York City in the United States to floods in western Europe and the deadly heatwave in the Pacific Northwest - showed that no country is safe from climate-related disasters. “We now have five times the number of recorded weather disasters than we had in 1970 and they are seven times more costly. Even the most developed countries have become vulnerable”, said the UN chief.
The price of climate change
“These events would have been impossible without human-caused climate change,” Guterres said, adding, “these changes are just the beginning of worse to come”. He appealed to governments to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord. “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we will be unable to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit),” Guterres said, warning, “The consequences will be catastrophic.”
In the September 16 report, the UN bodies and scientific organizations noted that rising global temperatures are already fueling devastating extreme weather events around the world, with escalating impacts on economies and societies. Billions of working hours have been lost due to excessive heat. According to the UN head, “We now have five times the number of recorded weather disasters than we had in 1970 and they are seven times more costly. Even the most developed countries have become vulnerable.”
The WMO report comes ahead of two crucial conferences – the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, in October and the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
“Code red for humanity”
The UN head had earlier signaled a similar warning on August 9 at the release of a report by the IPCC. “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk,” the Secretary-General said in a statement. Describing the IPCC report as a “code red for humanity”, he said, “We really are out of time. “We must act now to prevent further irreversible damage.”
A report by the World Bank said on Monday that climate change, rising sea levels, water scarcity and declining crop productivity could push up to 216 million people to migrate within their own countries in the next three decades and create migration hot spots unless