Unite behind the science and take urgent climate action
by World Meteorological Organization, agencies
12:34am 7th Aug, 2020
The State of the Planet - Humanity is waging war on nature, by Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres.
Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back -- and it is already doing so with growing force and fury.
Biodiversity is collapsing. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes. Deserts are spreading. Wetlands are being lost.
Every year, we lose 10 million hectares of forests. Oceans are overfished -- and choking with plastic waste. The carbon dioxide they absorb is acidifying the seas. Coral reefs are bleached and dying.
Air and water pollution are killing 9 million people annually – more than six times the current toll of the pandemic.
And with people and livestock encroaching further into animal habitats and disrupting wild spaces, we could see more viruses and other disease-causing agents jump from animals to humans. Let’s not forget that 75 per cent of new and emerging human infectious diseases are zoonotic.
Today, two new authoritative reports from the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme spell out how close we are to climate catastrophe.
2020 is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record globally – even with the cooling effect of this year’s La Nina. The past decade was the hottest in human history.
Ocean heat is at record levels. This year, more than 80 per cent of the world’s oceans experienced marine heatwaves.
In the Arctic, 2020 has seen exceptional warmth, with temperatures more than 3 degrees Celsius above average – and more than 5 degrees in northern Siberia.
Arctic sea ice in October was the lowest on record – and now re-freezing has been the slowest on record. Greenland ice has continued its long-term decline, losing an average of 278 gigatons a year. Permafrost is melting and so releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal.
The North Atlantic hurricane season has seen 30 storms, more than double the long-term average and breaking the record for a full season. Central America is still reeling from two back-to-back hurricanes, part of the most intense period for such storms in recent years. Last year such disasters cost the world $150 billion.
COVID-19 lockdowns have temporarily reduced emissions and pollution. But carbon dioxide levels are still at record highs – and rising. In 2019, carbon dioxide levels reached 148 per cent of pre-industrial levels. In 2020, the upward trend has continued despite the pandemic.
Methane soared even higher – to 260 per cent. Nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas but also a gas that harms the ozone layer, has escalated by 123 per cent.
Meanwhile, climate policies have yet to rise to the challenge. Emissions are 62 per cent higher now than when international climate negotiations began in 1990. Every tenth of a degree of warming matters.
Today, we are at 1.2 degrees of warming and already witnessing unprecedented climate extremes and volatility in every region and on every continent. We are headed for a thundering temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius this century (with some scientists envisaging a 7 degree Celsius rise).
The science is crystal clear: to limit temperature rise to 1.5-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the world needs to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6 per cent every year between now and 2030.
Instead, the world is going in the opposite direction — planning an annual increase of 2 per cent. The fallout of the assault on our planet is impeding our efforts to eliminate poverty and imperiling food security.
And it is making our work for peace even more difficult, as the disruptions drive instability, displacement and conflict. It is no coincidence that seventy per cent of the most climate vulnerable countries are also among the most politically and economically fragile.
It is not happenstance that of the 15 countries most susceptible to climate risks, eight host a United Nations peacekeeping or special political mission.
As always, the impacts fall most heavily on the world’s most vulnerable people. Those who have done the least to cause the problem are suffering the most. Even in the developed world, the marginalized are the first victims of disasters and the last to recover.
Let’s be clear: human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos. But that means human action can help solve it.
Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.
In this context, the recovery from the pandemic is an opportunity. We can see rays of hope in the form of a vaccine. But there is no vaccine for the planet. Nature needs a bailout. In overcoming the pandemic, we can also avert climate cataclysm and restore our planet. This is an epic policy test. But ultimately this is a moral test.
The trillions of dollars needed for COVID recovery is money that we are borrowing from future generations. Every last penny. We cannot use those resources to lock in policies that burden them with a mountain of debt on a broken planet.
It is time to flick the “green switch”. We have a chance to not simply reset the world economy but to transform it. A sustainable economy driven by renewable energies will create new jobs, cleaner infrastructure and a resilient future.
An inclusive world will help ensure that people can enjoy better health and the full respect of their human rights, and live with dignity on a healthy planet. COVID recovery and our planet’s repair must be the two sides of the same coin.
Let me start with the climate emergency. We face three imperatives in addressing the climate crisis. First, we need to achieve global carbon neutrality within the next three decades. Second, we have to align global finance behind the Paris Agreement, the world’s blueprint for climate action. Third, we must deliver a breakthrough on adaptation to protect the world – and especially the most vulnerable people and countries from climate impacts..
* Access the full speech: http://bit.ly/2Vtqc9r
http://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2020-12-02/secretary-generals-address-columbia-university-the-state-of-the-planet-scroll-down-for-language-versions http://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/video/state-planet-latest-secretary-general http://www.unep.org/resources/report/production-gap-2020 http://insideclimatenews.org/news/01122020/un-fossil-fuel-coronavirus-report http://www.coveringclimatenow.org/climate-beat/humanity-faces-climate-suicide-without-us-rejoining-paris-agreement-says-un-secretary-general
Carbon dioxide levels hit new record, by UN News, World Meteorological Organization
Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere hit a new record of 410.5 parts per million in 2019, and are expected to keep rising this year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
“We breached the global threshold of 400 parts per million in 2015. And just four years later, we crossed 410 ppm. Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records. The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve”, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
Oksana Tarasova, WMO Chief of Atmospheric and Environment Research Division, told a news conference in Geneva that although it looked like the pandemic had brought the world to a standstill, carbon emissions had continued almost unabated because lockdowns only reduced mobility, not overall energy consumption.
She compared to the carbon levels in the atmosphere to a bathtub that was filling up more and more every year, and even a single drop of carbon would cause the level to rise. The COVID-related lockdowns were equivalent to just slightly reducing the flow from the tap, she said.
“The CO2 which we have now in the atmosphere is accumulated since 1750, so it's every single bit which we put in the atmosphere since that time that actually forms the current concentration. It's not what happened today or yesterday, it’s the whole history of the human economic and human development, which actually leads us to this global level of 410”, Dr. Tarasova said.
CO2 levels rose by 2.6 ppm in 2019, faster than the average rate for the last ten years, which was 2.37 ppm, and are now 48 per cent higher than the pre-industrial level.
Professor Taalas said that in order to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which governments pledged to try to stop temperatures rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the world needed to switch from coal, oil and gas-fired energy towards renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower, as well as adopting less-polluting modes of transport, including electric vehicles, biofuels, hydrogen and bicycles.
* Scientists calculate that emissions must fall by half by 2030 to give a good chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, beyond which hundreds of millions of people will face more heatwaves, droughts, floods and poverty: http://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
The impacts of climate change are already devastating lives and livelihoods, by IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain - International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
The impacts of climate change are already devastating lives and livelihoods every year, and they will only get worse without immediate and determined action. The World Disasters Report 2020 analyses climate disaster trends and shows how we can tackle the humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis together.
Global efforts to tackle climate change are currently failing to protect the people who are most at risk, according to new analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
IFRC’s World Disasters Report 2020: Come Heat or High Water shows that the countries most affected by climate-related disasters receive only a fraction of the funding that is available for climate change adaptation and thus struggle to protect people from the aggravating effects of climate change.IFRC’s Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said: “Our first responsibility is to protect communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks.
“However, our research demonstrates that the world is collectively failing to do this. There is a clear disconnection between where the climate risk is greatest and where climate adaptation funding goes. This disconnection could very well cost lives.”
The failure to protect the people most vulnerable to climate change is especially alarming given the steady increase in the number of climate and weather-related disasters. According to the World Disasters Report, the average number of climate and weather-related disasters per decade has increased nearly 35 per cent since the 1990s.
Over the past decade, 83 per cent of all disasters were caused by extreme weather and climate-related events such as floods, storms, and heatwaves. Together, these disasters killed more than 410,000 people and affected a staggering 1.7 billion people.
The World Disasters Report also argues that the massive stimulus packages that are currently being developed around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are an opportunity to address and reduce climate vulnerability. A recovery that protects people and the planet would not only help to reduce today’s risks but would also make communities safer and more resilient to future disasters.
Smart financing – with a focus on early warning and anticipatory action to reduce risks and prevent disasters before they happen – and risk reduction measures would both play a major role in protecting the most exposed communities.
Mr Chapagain said: “Climate adaptation work can’t take a back seat while the world is preoccupied with the pandemic: the two crises have to be tackled together.
“These disasters are already on the doorstep in every country around the world. We must significantly scale up investment in climate smart actions that strengthens risk reduction and preparedness, alongside climate-smart laws and policies.
“With challenges like these, international solidarity is not only a moral responsibility, but also the smart thing to do. Investing in resilience in the most vulnerable places is more cost-effective than to accept continued increases in the cost of humanitarian response, and contributes to a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for everyone.”
The United in Science 2020 Report has been compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) under the direction of the United Nations Secretary-General brings together the latest climate science related updates from a group of key global partner organizations – WMO, Global Carbon Project (GCP), UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Met Office.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations:
'This has been an unprecedented year for people and planet. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives worldwide. At the same time, the heating of our planet and climate disruption has continued apace. Record heat, ice loss, wildfires, floods and droughts continue to worsen, affecting communities, nations and economies around the world. Furthermore, due to the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the past century, the planet is already locked into future significant heating.
The solution to slowing down the rate of global temperature rise and keeping it below 1.5°C is for nations to dramatically cut emissions, with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
While emissions fell during the peak of the pandemic confinement measures, they have already mostly recovered to within 5 per cent of the same period in 2019 and are likely to increase further. This report stresses that short-term lockdowns are no substitute for the sustained climate action that is needed to enable us to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Never before has it been so clear that we need long term, inclusive, clean transitions to tackle the climate crisis and achieve sustainable development. We must turn the recovery from the pandemic into a real opportunity to build a better future.
In order to do that, governments need consistent and solid science, backed by the strong collaboration of scientific institutions and academia, to underpin policy decisions that can tackle the greatest challenges of our time.
This report by the United Nations and global scientific partner organizations, provides an update one year from the first United in Science report, which was launched to inform the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019.
United in Science 2020 presents a unified assessment of the state of our Earth system, detailing how emissions have evolved in 2020, and providing projections for the critical years ahead.
The report further addresses key thematic issues on the front lines of climate change, such as water, oceans and the cryosphere and highlights the vulnerability of land-based, marine and air observing systems which are essential to underpin our understanding of climate science.
We need science, solidarity and solutions to tackle both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. I urge leaders to heed the facts contained in this report, unite behind the science and take urgent climate action to set a path towards a safer, more sustainable future for all'.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization:
'2020 has been a remarkable year in many ways. Not least of course because of the global pandemic, impacting lives and livelihoods across the planet like never before. This year has also been remarkable in terms or our climate, continuing the trend we have seen in recent decades.
Greenhouse gas concentrations - which are already at their highest levels in 3 million years - have continue to rise, reaching new record highs this year.
Meanwhile, large swathes of Siberia have seen a prolonged and remarkable heatwave during the first half of 2020, which would have been almost impossible without anthropogenic climate change. And now 2016–2020 is set to be the warmest five year period on record. This report shows that whilst many aspects of our lives have been disrupted in 2020, climate change has continued unabated'.
* Access the report via the link below.
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