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Global warming must not exceed 1.5C, warns landmark UN report
by IPCC, WMO, UN News, agencies
12:55pm 8th Oct, 2018
27 Nov. 2018
Countries are failing to take the action needed to stave off the worst effects of climate change, the 2018 Global Emissions report released by UNEP has found, and the commitments made in the 2015 Paris agreement will not be met unless governments introduce additional measures as a matter of urgency.
New taxes on fossil fuels, investment in clean technology and much stronger government policies to bring down emissions are necessary. Governments must also stop subsidising fossil fuels, directly and indirectly, the UN said.
Gunnar Luderer, one of the authors of the UN report and senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said: 'There is still a tremendous gap between words and deeds, between the targets agreed by governments and the measures to achieve these goals.
Only a rapid turnaround here can help. Emissions must be reduced by a quarter by 2030 [to keep warming to no more than 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels] and for 1.5C emissions would have to be halved'.
The report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose again during 2017, highlighting the imperative for countries to deliver on the Paris Agreement to keep global warming to below 2C above pre-industrial levels.
The report comes just days before the key UN climate change conference known as COP 24, taking place in Katowice, Poland, with the agency urging nations to triple their efforts to curb harmful emissions.
The UNEP report comes hot on the heels of the watershed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on global warming, released in October, which cautioned that emissions had to stop rising now, in order to keep temperature increases below 1.5C, and reduce the risks for the well-being of the planet and its people.
If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation, said UNEP's Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya. The science is clear; for all the climate action we've seen governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We're feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.
Heat-trapping CO2 gas in the atmosphere is largely responsible for rising global temperatures, according to the overwhelming body of scientific evidence. UNEP's 2018 Global Emissions Report, show global emissions have reached historic levels.
Total annual greenhouse gases emissions, including from land-use change, reached a record high of 53.5 Gigatons in 2017, an increase of 0.7 compared with 2016.
In contrast, global GHG emissions in 2030 need to be approximately 25 per cent and 55 per cent lower than in 2017 to put the world on a least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to 2C and 1.5C respectively, said the report.
What's worse, the report notes that there is no sign of reversal of this trend and that only 57 countries (representing 60 per cent of global emissions) are on track to bridge their emissions gap - meaning the gap between where we are likely to be and where we need to be.
Increased emissions and lagging action means the gap published in this year's report is larger than ever.
UNEP highlighted that while momentum from the private sector and untapped potential from innovation and green-financing offer pathways to bridge the emissions gap globally, the technical feasibility of limiting global warming to 1.5C is dwindling.
The authors of the report note that nations would need to triple their efforts on climate action without further delay, in order to meet the 2C-rise limit by mid-century. To meet the 1.5C limit, they would have to increase their climate efforts five fold. A continuation of current trends will likely result in global warming of at least 3C by the end of the century, with continued temperature rises after that, according to the report findings.
The kind of drastic, large-scale action we urgently need has yet to been seen, said UNEP.
The report comes at the end of a year that's seen a record-setting heat wave cover much of the globe, devastating hurricanes hit North America and Asia and the most lethal and destructive wildfire in California's history. It also comes on the heels of an earlier report from the UN and one released by the U.S. government last week that underscore the risks of failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change.
"The urgency of this message is getting louder and louder for the everyday public, and the climate impacts are definitely outpacing our response," said Kelly Levin, a lead author of the report and a senior associate at the World Resources Institute. "This gap in action is contributing to many of the impacts we are seeing around the world."
Many of the world's leading economies, including the United States and the European Union, are failing to meet the pledges they made under the Paris Agreement, the report says.
Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said: The window of opportunity is starting to close and if we fail to act now the opportunity will be gone. Failure to act will lock in catastrophic global warming that will change the planet irrevocably and condemn millions to suffering. What are governments waiting for?
The new report highlights a range of policies that can help keep emissions in check.
Most G20 nations can take actions to end fossil fuel subsidies, phase out coal-fired power plants, implement policies to boost industrial efficiency and increase support for the use of renewable energy to heat and cool buildings.
Broadly speaking, the largest potential for emissions cuts lies in three areas, the report says: boosting wind and solar power, improving efficiency of household appliances and cars, and stopping deforestation while allowing new forests to grow.
The report also says carbon prices offer tremendous room for improvement. About half the world's emissions do not carry any price or tax. The report cites various studies to say that adopting a carbon tax of $70 per ton could, along with other policies, lead to emissions cuts of up to 40 percent in some countries.
The most important takeaway from the report may be the simplest: even if all the world's governments were to meet their most ambitious pledges made so far to cut emissions, they would fall far short of the larger goals of limiting warming. Sooner or later, net emissions from the use of fossil fuels must hit zero for warming to end.
"Now more than ever," the report says, "unprecedented and urgent action is required by all nations."
Nov. 2018
Climate change impacts continue in 2018. (World Meteorological Organization)
The long-term warming trend has continued in 2018, with the average global temperature set to be the fourth highest on record. The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Other tell-tale signs of climate change, including sea level rise, ocean heat and acidification and sea-ice and glacier melt continue, whilst extreme weather left a trail of devastation on all continents, according to the WMO provisional Statement on the State of the Climate in 2018. It includes details of impacts of climate change based on contributions from a wide range of United Nations partners.
The report shows that the global average temperature for the first ten months of the year was nearly 1C above the pre-industrial baseline (1850-1900). This is based on five independently maintained global temperature data sets.
We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5C by the end of the century. If we exploit all known fossil fuel resources, the temperature rise will be considerably higher, he said.
It is worth repeating once again that we are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it, said Mr Taalas.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on Global Warming of 1.5C reported that the average global temperature for the decade 2006-2015 was 0.86C above the pre-industrial baseline. The average increase above the same baseline for the most recent decade 2009-2018 was about 0.93C and for the past five years, 2014-2018, was 1.04C above the pre-industrial baseline.
These are more than just numbers, said WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova.
Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life. It makes a difference to economic productivity, food security, and to the resilience of our infrastructure and cities. It makes a difference to the speed of glacier melt and water supplies, and the future of low-lying islands and coastal communities. Every extra bit matters, said Ms Manaenkova.
20 Nov. 2018
Greenhouse gas levels in atmosphere reach new record. (WMO)
Levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). There is no sign of a reversal in this trend, which is driving long-term climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and more extreme weather.
The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017, up from 403.3 ppm in 2016 and 400.1 ppm in 2015. Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also rose, whilst there was a resurgence of a potent greenhouse gas and ozone depleting substance called CFC-11, which is regulated under an international agreement to protect the ozone layer.
Since 1990, there has been a 41% increase in total radiative forcing - the warming effect on the climate - by long-lived greenhouse gases. CO2 accounts for about 82% of the increase in radiative forcing over the past decade, according to figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration quoted in the WMO Bulletin.
The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed, said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now, said Mr Taalas.
The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere and the oceans. About a quarter of the total emissions is absorbed by the oceans and another quarter by the biosphere.
A separate Emissions Gap Report by UN Environment (UNEP), to be released on 27 November, tracks the policy commitments made by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The WMO and UNEP reports come on top of the scientific evidence provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C. This said that net emissions of CO2 must reach zero (the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere must equal the amount that is removed by sinks, natural and technological) around 2050 in order to keep temperature increases to below 1.5C. It showed how keeping temperature increases below 2C would reduce the risks to human well-being, ecosystems and sustainable development.
CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. There is currently no magic wand to remove all the excess CO2 from the atmosphere, said WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova.
Every fraction of a degree of global warming matters, and so does every part per million of greenhouse gases, she said.
Together, the reports provide a scientific base for decision-making at the UN climate change negotiations, which will be held from 2-14 December in Katowice, Poland. The key objective of the meeting is to adopt the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which aims to hold the global average temperature increase to as close as possible to 1.5C.
The new IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C shows that deep and rapid reductions of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will be needed in all sectors of society and the economy. The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, showing a continuing rising trend in concentrations of greenhouse gases, underlines just how urgent these emissions reductions are, said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.
* 2018 report - Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: shaping the health of nations for centuries to come:
* IPCC Summary (34pp):
Oct. 2018
Global warming must not exceed 1.5C, warns landmark UN report. (IPCC, Guardian, agencies)
In a stark new warning, the world's leading climate scientists have shown that global warming must be kept to a maximum of 1.5C to lessen the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.
The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic, according to the 1.5C study, which was launched in Incheon in South Korea after approval at a final plenary of all 195 countries that saw delegates hugging one another, with some in tears.
It's a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now, said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.
Policymakers commissioned the report at the Paris climate talks in 2016, but since then the gap between science and politics has widened. Donald Trump has promised to withdraw the US - the world's biggest source of historical emissions from the accord. There were fears that the first round of Brazil's presidential election would put Jair Bolsonaro into a strong position to carry out his threat to do the same and also open the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness.
The world is currently 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. Following devastating hurricanes in the US, record droughts in Cape Town and forest fires in the Arctic, the IPCC makes clear that climate change is already happening and warns that every fraction of additional warming will worsen the impact.
Scientists who reviewed the 6,000 works referenced in the report, said the change caused by just half a degree came as a revelation. We can see there is a difference and it's substantial, Roberts said.
At 1.5C the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower than at 2C, it notes. Food scarcity would be less of a problem and hundreds of millions fewer people, particularly in poor countries, would be at risk of climate-related poverty.
At 2C extremely hot days, such as those experienced in the northern hemisphere this summer, would become more severe and common, increasing heat-related deaths and causing more forest fires.
But the greatest difference would be to nature. Insects, which are vital for pollination of crops, and plants are almost twice as likely to lose half their habitat at 2C compared with 1.5C. Corals would be 99% lost at the higher of the two temperatures, but more than 10% have a chance of surviving if the lower target is reached.
Sea-level rise would affect 10 million more people by 2100 if the half-degree extra warming brought a forecast 10cm additional pressure on coastlines. The number affected would increase substantially in the following centuries due to locked-in ice melt.
Oceans are already suffering from elevated acidity and lower levels of oxygen as a result of climate change. One model shows marine fisheries would lose 3m tonnes at 2C, twice the decline at 1.5C.
Sea ice-free summers in the Arctic, which is warming two to three times fast than the world average, would come once every 100 years at 1.5C, but every 10 years with half a degree more of global warming.
Time and carbon budgets are running out. By mid-century, a shift to the lower goal would require a supercharged roll-back of emissions sources that have built up over the past 250 years.
The IPCC maps out several pathways to achieve 1.5C, with different combinations of land use and technological change. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transport systems and greater adoption of carbon capture technology.
Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.
We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that, said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can and that is the governments that receive it.
He said the main finding of his group was the need for urgency. Although unexpectedly good progress has been made in the adoption of renewable energy, deforestation for agriculture was turning a natural carbon sink into a source of emissions. Carbon capture and storage projects, which are essential for reducing emissions in the concrete and waste disposal industries, have also ground to a halt.
Reversing these trends is essential if the world has any chance of reaching 1.5C without relying on the untried technology of solar radiation modification and other forms of geo-engineering, which the IPCC says may not work and could have negative consequences.
Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said the final document was 'incredibly conservative' because it did not mention the likely rise in climate-driven refugees or the danger of tipping points that could push the world on to an irreversible path of extreme warming.
The report will be presented to governments at the UN climate conference in Poland at the end of this year. But analysts say there is much work to be done, with even pro-Paris deal nations involved in fossil fuel extraction that runs against the spirit of their commitments. Britain is pushing ahead with gas fracking, Norway with oil exploration in the Arctic, and the German government wants to tear down Hambach forest to dig for coal.
At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 4C of warming. The report authors are refusing to accept defeat, believing the increasingly visible damage caused by climate change will shift opinion their way.
I hope this can change the world, said Jiang Kejun of China's semi-governmental Energy Research Institute, who is one of the authors. Two years ago, even I didn't believe 1.5C was possible but when I look at the options I have confidence it can be done.
There is more awareness among the population about the problem of rising temperatures. People in Beijing have never experienced so many hot days as this summer. It's made them talk more about climate change.
James Hansen, the former Nasa scientist who helped raised the alarm about climate change, said both 1.5C and 2C would take humanity into uncharted and dangerous territory because they were both well above the Holocene-era range in which human civilisation developed. But he said there was a huge difference between the two: 1.5C gives young people and the next generation a fighting chance of getting back to the Holocene or close to it. That is probably necessary if we want to keep shorelines where they are and preserve our coastal cities.
Johan Rockstrom, a co-author of the recent Hothouse Earth report, said scientists never previously discussed 1.5C, which was initially seen as a political concession to small island states. But he said opinion had shifted in the past few years along with growing evidence of climate instability and the approach of tipping points that might push the world off a course that could be controlled by emissions reductions.
Climate change is occurring earlier and more rapidly than expected. Even at the current level of 1C warming, it is painful, he told the Guardian. This report is really important. It has a scientific robustness that shows 1.5C is not just a political concession. There is a growing recognition that 2C is dangerous.
Oct 7, 2018
IPCC Report: 1.5 Degrees Global Warming means Worsening Droughts, Extreme Weather and Damage. Another half-degree Celsius will dramatically increase risks to people and ecosystems they depend on. (InsideClimate News)
Without a radical transformation of energy, transportation and agriculture systems, the world will hurtle past the 1.5 degree Celsius target of the Paris climate agreement by the middle of the century, according to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Failing to cap global warming near that threshold dramatically increases risks to human civilization and the ecosystems that sustain life on Earth, according to the latest IPCC report.
To keep warming under 1.5C, countries will have to cut global CO2 emissions 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by around 2050, the report found, re-affirming previous conclusions about the need to end fossil fuel burning. Short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, will have to be significantly reduced as well.
More than 1.5C warming means nearly all of the planet's coral reefs will die, droughts and heat waves will continue to intensify, and an additional 10 million people will face greater risks from rising sea level, including deadly storm surges and flooded coastal zones. Most at risk are millions of people in less developed parts of the world, the panel warned.
The report is a follow-up to the 2015 Paris Agreement and shows how climate risks to society will dramatically increase if the average global temperature rises more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Through 2017, the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere had already warmed the world by about 1C.
"Currently, we are on pace to blow past 1.5 degrees Celsius in a couple decades," said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann. Even under the current base-case scenario, with the emissions cuts pledged in Paris, the world is on track to warm between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius, he said.
"Every half-degree matters, and 2 degrees Celsius and 1.5C warming shouldn't be thought of as cliffs we walk off. A better analogy is a minefield. The further out on to that minefield we go, the more explosions we are likely to set off," he said.
In particular, the new report spells out the difference between warming 1.5C and 2C, based on thousands of new scientific research papers published during the past few years.
The scientific research underlying the report is more certain than ever that the risk of extreme and deadly heat waves increases. The increase from 1.5C to 2C pushes extreme heat events past the upper limit of variability and a new climate regime, particularly in tropical regions. It also suggests that:
Risks from extreme precipitation events would increase dramatically with 2C warming, especially in eastern Asia and eastern North America. Sea level would rise about 4 inches more with 2C of warming than with 1.5C, affecting 10 million more people. An extra 580,000 to 1 million square miles of permafrost would thaw at 2C compared to 1.5C. At 1.5C of warming, the Arctic is forecast to be ice-free once per century; at 2C warming, that would happen once every 10 years.
What's Missing from the IPCC Report?
Despite these projections, some groups closely watching the process say the final version of the report which had to be approved by all 195 IPCC member nations doesn't do enough to warn world leaders about the grim consequences of reaching potential climate tipping points that could trigger conflicts over resources and mass migration.
"I was a reviewer on an earlier draft and was concerned that it left out some of the most important risks governments need to be aware of," said Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
"There was no mention of the potential for conflicts and mass displacement of people, which is of huge concern to governments. There wasn't much mention of tipping points. The IPCC has a reputation of not describing high-impact, low-probability events. There is evidence we may have already passed some key climate thresholds, including a meltdown of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which would raise sea level several meters in the next few centuries," he said.
There's also a growing risk that warming will disrupt key ocean circulations, including currents that keep Europe mild despite its relatively high latitude, Ward said. That could have dramatic consequences, including a Scandinavian-like climate for temperate parts of Western Europe.
"Those concerns have been documented very clearly the last few years. It would be inexplicable if you don't talk about some of these biggest risks in the summary for policymakers," he said.
Numbers from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provide a solid foundation for those concerns: weather-related events displaced 23.5 million people in 2016. IFRC President Francesco Rocca said half of the organization's operations are in response to weather-related disasters, which are compounded by "climate shocks and stresses."
"It is difficult to comprehend the scale of crises confronting vulnerable communities in a world that is 1.5C or 2.0C hotter," he said in a statement reacting to the IPCC report.
University of Florida sea level rise expert Andrea Dutton said she hopes the new report will help clarify global warming threats for the public, especially the risk of sea level rise in coastal areas.
"What sounds like small increments in temperature can have devastating effects in terms of climate impacts on growing human populations," she said. "This report is not about whether the planet can withstand another half-degree increase in temperature. It is about understanding whether we can withstand it. Small temperature changes can have far-reaching impacts on our ability to survive on this planet."
Satellite measurements from recent years show sea level rising faster than expected, and new data from ancient ice layers, tree rings and other sources suggest the polar ice sheets are more vulnerable to extensive melting at 1.5C warming than previously believed.
"So, it is all doom and gloom? No, because every increment of progress we can make to keep the temperature from climbing even higher will make a difference," Dutton said. "The steps that need to be taken to abate the worst outcomes require leadership at every level. My hope is that this report will encourage and empower that leadership."
Existing pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions submitted under the Paris Agreement don't come close to limiting global warming to 1.5C, or even 2C; scientists say they would result in closer to 3 or 4C of warming. To stay under 1.5C warming without relying on unproven CO2 removal technology means CO2 emissions must be cut in half by 2030, according to the report.
The report should be a wakeup call to the world to start acting now, said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, a climate science and policy think tank.
"This report shows that dealing with climate change will become more dangerous and more expensive the longer we wait. Governments must get ready to commit to much more aggressive climate targets by 2020 at the latest, and they have to ditch coal," he said.
According to the IPCC, renewable energy must make up more than half the global energy mix by 2050, and coal needs to be almost completely phased out by then.
Failing that, the world will have to remove large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere in the second half of the century. If the average global temperature overshoots 1.5C warming by just 0.2 degrees, CO2 removal would have to be deployed at a scale "that might not be achievable given considerable implementation challenges," the report says.
The new IPCC report will be key to discussions in Katowice, Poland, in December, when the world meets for the annual UN climate talks to try to finalize the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement.
Christopher Weber, global lead scientist for climate and energy for the World Wildlife Fund, said negotiators in Poland should focus on the underlying science.
"This is not a political negotiation, it's a science report. We're already seeing impacts like super storms, wildfires and heat waves from 1 degree of warming," he said. "This report underscores that many of the impacts we thought we would see at 2 degrees we will see sooner, and they may be unstoppable above that." IPCC Summary (34pp):
Sep. 2018
Nothing less than the fate of humankind depends on how we meet the climate challenge, by Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
Dear friends of planet Earth,
Climate change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. We face a direct existential threat.
Climate change is moving faster than we are and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world.
If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.
That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership from politicians, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere.
We have the tools to make our actions effective. What we still lack even after the Paris Agreement is the leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.
Let there be no doubt about the urgency of the crisis. We are experiencing record-breaking temperatures around the world.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, the past two decades included 18 of the warmest years since 1850, when records began. This year is shaping up to be the fourth hottest.
Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods are leaving a trail of death and devastation.
Last month the state of Kerala in India suffered its worst monsoon flooding in recent history, killing 400 people and driving 1 million more from their homes.
We know that Hurricane Maria killed almost 3,000 people in Puerto Rico last year, making it one of the deadliest extreme weather disasters in U.S. history.
Many of those people died in the months after the storm because they lacked access to electricity, clean water and proper healthcare due to the hurricane.
What makes all of this even more disturbing is that we were warned. Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again.
Far too many leaders have refused to listen. Far too few have acted with the vision the science demands.
We see the results. In some situations, they are approaching scientists worst-case scenarios.
Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than we imagined possible. This year, for the first time, thick permanent sea ice north of Greenland began to break up.
This dramatic warming in the Arctic is affecting weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.
Wildfires are lasting longer and spreading further. Some of these blazes are so big that they send soot and ash around the world, blackening glaciers and ice caps and making them melt even faster.
Oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening the foundation of the food chains that sustain life. Corals are dying in vast amounts, further depleting vital fisheries.
And, on land, the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making rice crops less nutritious, threatening well-being and food security for billions of people. As climate change intensifies, we will find it harder to feed ourselves.
Extinction rates will spike as vital habitats decline. More and more people will be forced to migrate from their homes as the land they depend on becomes less able to support them. This is already leading to many local conflicts over dwindling resources.
This past May, the World Meteorological Organization reported that the planet marked another grim milestone: the highest monthly average for carbon dioxide levels ever recorded.
Four hundred parts per million has long been seen as a critical threshold. But we have now surpassed 411 parts per millions and the concentrations continue to rise. This is the highest concentration in 3 million years.
We know what is happening to our planet. We know what we need to do. And we even know how to do it. But sadly, the ambition of our action is nowhere near where it needs to be.
When world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on climate change three years ago, they pledged to stop temperatures rising by less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to work to keep the increase as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.
These targets were really the bare minimum to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But scientists tell us that we are far off track.
According to a UN study, the commitments made so far by Parties to the Paris Agreement represent just one-third of what is needed.
The mountain in front of us is very high. But it is not insurmountable. We know how to scale it.
Put simply, we need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action.
We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun.
We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm. We need to embrace the circular economy and resource efficiency.
Our cities and transport sectors will need to be overhauled. How we heat, cool and light our buildings will need to be rethought so we waste less energy.
And this is exactly where this conversation can become exciting. Because, so much of the conversation on climate change focuses on the doom and gloom. Of course, warnings are necessary. But fear will not get the job done.
No, what captures my imagination is the vast opportunity afforded by climate action. Enormous benefits await humankind if we can rise to the climate challenge. A great many of these benefits are economic.
I have heard the argument usually from vested interests -- that tackling climate change is expensive and could harm economic growth. This is hogwash. In fact, the opposite is true.
We are experiencing huge economic losses due to climate change. Over the past decade, extreme weather and the health impact of burning fossil fuels have cost the American economy alone at least 240 billion dollars a year. This cost will explode by 50 per cent in the coming decade alone.
By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy 2 trillion dollars.
More and more studies also show the enormous benefits of climate action. Last week I was at the launch of the New Climate Economy report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Change.
It shows that that climate action and socio-economic progress are mutually supportive, with gains of 26 trillion dollars predicted by 2030 compared with business as usual. If we pursue the right path.
For example, for every dollar spent restoring degraded forests, as much as $30 dollars can be recouped in economic benefits and poverty reduction. Restoring degraded lands means better lives and income for farmers and pastoralists and less pressure to migrate to cities.
Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year. And clean air has vast benefits for public health.
The International Labour Organization reports that common sense green economy policies could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030.
Not only will a shift to renewable energy save money, it would also create new jobs, waste less water, boost food production and clean the polluted air that is killing us.
There is nothing to lose from acting; there is everything to gain. Now, there are still many who think that the challenge is too great. But I deeply disagree.
Humankind has confronted and overcome immense challenges before; challenges that have required us to work together and to put aside division and difference to fight a common threat.
Now we stand at an existential crossroad. If we are to take the right path - the only sensible path - we will have to muster the full force of human ingenuity.
But that ingenuity exists and is already providing solutions. Technology is on our side in the battle to address climate change.
The rise of renewable energy has been tremendous. Today, it is competitive with or even cheaper than coal and oil, especially if one factors in the cost of pollution. But, the transition to a cleaner, greener future needs to speed up. We stand at a truly use it or lose it moment.
Over the next decade or so, the world will invest some 90 trillion dollars in infrastructure. And so we must ensure that that infrastructure is sustainable or we will lock in a high-polluting dangerous future. And for that to happen, the leaders of the world need to step up.
A lack of decisive government action is causing uncertainty in the markets and concern about the future of the Paris Agreement. We can't let this happen.
Existing technologies are waiting to come online - cleaner fuels, alternative building materials, better batteries and advances in farming and land use.
These and other innovations can have a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so we can hit the Paris targets and inject the great ambition that is so urgently needed.
Governments must also end harmful subsidies for fossil fuels, institute carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of polluting greenhouse gas emissions and incentivizes the clean energy transition.
I have spoken of the emergency we face, the benefits of action and the feasibility of a climate-friendly transformation. There is another reason to act - moral duty.
The world's richest nations are the most responsible for the climate crisis, yet the effects are being felt first and worst by the poorest nations and the most vulnerable peoples and communities.
We already see this injustice in the incessant and increasing cycle of extreme droughts and ever more powerful storms.
Women and girls, in particular, will pay the price not only because their lives will become harder but because, in times of disaster, women and girls always suffer disproportionally.
Richer nations must therefore not only cut their emissions but do more to ensure that the most vulnerable can develop the necessary resilience to survive the damage these emissions are causing.
It is important to note that, because carbon dioxide is long-lasting in the atmosphere, the climate changes we are already seeing will persist for decades to come.
It is necessary for all nations to adapt, and for the richest ones to assist the most vulnerable.
Climate change is the great challenge of our time. Thanks to science, we know its size and nature. We do have the ingenuity, and the resources and tools to face it.
Leaders must lead. We have the moral and economic incentives to act. What is still missing still, even after Paris is the leadership, and the sense of urgency and true commitment to a decisive multilateral response.
The time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands. We need them to show they care about the future and even the present.
It is imperative that civil society - youth, women's groups, the private sector, communities of faith, scientists and grassroots movements around the world - call their leaders to account.
Nothing less than our future and the fate of humankind depends on how we rise to the climate challenge.
Keeping our planet's warming to well below 2 degrees is essential for global prosperity, people's well-being and the security of nations.
We need cities and states to shift from coal to solar and wind - from brown to green energy. We need increased investments and innovation in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies across buildings, transport, and industry.
And we need the oil and gas industry to make their business plans compatible with the Paris agreement and the Paris targets. I want to see a strong expansion in carbon pricing.
I want us to get the global food system right by ensuring that we grow our food without chopping down large tracts of forest.
We need sustainable food supply chains that reduce loss and waste. And we must halt deforestation and restore degraded lands.
I want to rapidly speed up the trend towards green financing by banks and insurers, and encourage innovation in financial and debt instruments to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable nations such as small island states and bolster their defences against climate change.
And I want to see governments fulfilling their pledge to mobilize 100 billion dollars a year for climate action in support of the developing world. We need to see the Green Climate Fund become fully operational and fully resourced.
But for all this, we need governments, industry and civil society reading from the same page with governments front and centre driving the movement for climate action. I am calling on civil society, and young people in particular, to campaign for climate action.
There is no more time to waste. As the ferocity of this summer's wildfires and heatwaves shows, the world is changing before our eyes. We are careering towards the edge of the abyss.
It is not too late to shift course, but every day that passes means the world heats up a little more and the cost of our inaction mounts.
Every day we fail to act is a day that we step a little closer towards a fate that none of us wants - a fate that will resonate through generations in the damage done to humankind and life on earth.
Our fate is in our hands. The world is counting on all of us to rise to the challenge before it's too late. I count on you all.

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