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UN Secretary General highlights climate crisis at WMO United in Science Report 2022 launch

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) recently launched the United in Science report (13 September)  The United Nations Secretary General articulated the climate impacts being felt this year, the climate crisis we are facing and the imperative to reduce emissions more rapidly and stop ALL new fossil fuel projects.

The United in Science report highlighted that:

  • Greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise to record highs. 
  • Fossil fuel emission rates are now above pre-pandemic levels after a temporary drop due to lockdowns.
  • Ambition of new mitigation pledges for 2030 need to be four times higher to limit global warming to 2 °C and seven times higher to get on track to limit global warming to 1.5 °C..
  • 2018–2022 was the fourth warmest 5-year period on record and 2015-2021 were the seven warmest consecutive years on record.
  • Some regions saw greater glacial mass loss than others. For example, Western Canada experienced an exceptionally warm and dry northern hemisphere summer in 2021, which further exacerbated mass loss of glaciers across the region.
  • In 2018-2021 the Arctic sea-ice extent was below average and in the Antarctic, minimum sea-ice extent reached record lows.
  • There is a 48% chance the annual mean global temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) for at least one of the next five years (2022–2026).
  • there is a 93% probability that at least one year in the next five will be warmer than the warmest year on record (2016).
  • As the climate changes, tipping points, or irreversible physical changes in the climate system, cannot be ruled out. Potential tipping points include the Amazon rainforest, melting of polar ice sheets and changes in major weather systems, such as the monsoon.
  • With 3.3 to 3.6 billion people living in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change, adaptation to climate impacts is more important than ever.

“Floods, droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms and wildfires are going from bad to worse, breaking records with alarming frequency. Heatwaves in Europe. Colossal floods in Pakistan. Prolonged and severe droughts in China, the Horn of Africa and the United States. There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction. Yet each year we double-down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse,” Mr Guterres said.

“Climate science is increasingly able to show that many of the extreme weather events that we are experiencing have become more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change. We have seen this repeatedly this year, with tragic effect. It is more important than ever that we scale up action on early warning systems to build resilience to current and future climate risks in vulnerable communities. That is why WMO is spearheading a drive to ensure Early Warnings for All in the next five years,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

The report highlights that climate impacts will be felt strongly in urban areas and cities. “Cities are major contributors to global GHG emissions, but are also extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.” says the report. “In cities, climate change will lead to more intense precipitation, sea-level rise, coastal flooding and more extreme heatwaves. These impacts will exacerbate inequalities among the 4.2 billion people who live in cities.”

Adaptation saves lives. And Early Warning systems are an essential part of climate adaptation. Developed countries already have some early warning systems in place , but many developing countries have not been able to afford to implement early warning systems. The UN, in partnership with WMO, will be spearheading new action to ensure every person on Earth is protected by early warning systems in the next five years.

Key Messages animation:

Speech by Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

Our climate is heating rapidly.

Floods, droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms and wildfires are going from bad to worse, breaking records with ever alarming frequency.

Heatwaves in Europe.

Colossal floods in Pakistan.

Prolonged and severe droughts in China, the Horn of Africa and the United States.

There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters.

They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction.

The number of weather, climate and water-related disasters has increased by a factor of five over the past 50 years.

Daily losses total more than $200 million dollars.

This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territories of destruction.

Yet each year we double-down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse.

Even as we know the cure.

Our leaders pledged in the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and build climate resilience.

This year’s United in Science report shows that we are still way off track.

Climate action is stalling on key fronts, and the poorest countries and people are being hardest hit. 

But no country is immune.

The report is a shameful reminder that resilience-building is the neglected half of the climate equation.

It is a scandal that developed countries have failed to take adaptation seriously, and shrugged off their commitments to help the developing world.

The Glasgow decision urges developed countries to collectively provide $40 billion dollars a year in new adaptation finance.

This must be delivered in full, as a starting point.

But it is clearly not enough.

Adaptation finance needs are set to grow to at least $300 billion dollars a year by 2030. 

I have just returned from Pakistan, where I saw first-hand the massive scale of need there.

At the very least, 50 per cent of all climate finance must go to adaptation.

This is a moral imperative, but it is also a matter of common sense.

Adaptation investments pay huge human dividends, for donors and vulnerable countries, people and communities alike. 

And yet most multilateral development banks are not doing enough.

G20 countries are their shareholders.

The buck stops with them to force the changes needed.

It is also clear that early warnings save lives. 

That’s why I have announced that the United Nations will work to make them available to every person on Earth within five years.

The World Meteorological Organization will take the lead.

Many developing countries still lack these essential services.

We also need a renewable energy revolution to drastically cut carbon emissions.

All countries must boost their national climate ambition every year, until we are on track.

The G20, which is responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions, must lead the way.

There must be no new coal plants built, with coal phased out by 2030 for OECD countries, and by 2040 for all others.

The current fossil fuel free-for-all must end now.

It is a recipe for permanent climate chaos and suffering.

Today, I urge leaders to heed the facts of this alarming report.

We must unite behind the science.

We must turn pledges into action.

Now.

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