UN chief urges ‘rapid’ emission cuts to curb climate change

GENEVA, Sept. 16 (BNA) – The United Nations chief called Thursday for “immediate, rapid and broad-based” cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming and avert a climate catastrophe.

Ahead of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly next week, António Guterres has warned governments that climate change is proceeding faster than expected and that fossil fuel emissions have already returned from an epidemic decline.

Speaking at the launch of a UN-backed report summarizing current efforts to tackle climate change, Guterres said recent severe weather — from Hurricane Ida in the United States to flooding in Western Europe and a deadly heat wave in the Pacific Northwest — showed that no country was safe. of climate-related disasters.

“These changes are just the beginning of the worst to come,” he said, urging governments to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“Unless there are immediate, rapid and widespread reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we will not be able to limit global heating to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” Guterres said. “The consequences will be dire.”

In their report, United in Science 21, six United Nations bodies and scientific organizations drew on existing research to argue that there is a direct link between human-caused emissions, record high temperatures and disasters that have a measurable impact on individuals and societies, including “billions of people”. Working hours (…) are lost because of the heat alone.”

They noted that because of the long-term effects of many of the emissions that have already been released into the atmosphere, more impacts are inevitable.

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“Even with ambitious action to slow greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels will continue to rise and threaten low-lying islands and coastal populations worldwide,” the authors wrote.

Scientists have said this before but it is important: “The situation is getting worse, we know the cause and we know how to solve it in ways that leave us, and future generations in a better, healthier and more sustainable world,” said Dean of Environment at the University of Michigan, Jonathan Overbeck, who was not part of the report.

Guterres urged governments to roll out more ambitious plans to cut emissions by the next UN climate summit in Glasgow, including a commitment to stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by mid-century than can be removed.

Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist at Penn State University, said he agreed with the report’s urgent message, but questioned some of the stark warnings in it.

In particular, he said, the 1.5°C threshold agreed in Paris does not apply to odd years, some of which can be unusually hot due to other factors.

“This misleading framing unnecessarily fuels fears in the public that we have somehow already crossed that threshold and that it is now too late to prevent it,” Mann said. “We didn’t. And it isn’t.”

He also noted that the drop in emissions seen during the pandemic could be seen as a positive sign that significant cuts could be made if entire economies were weaned off fossil fuels.

Mann said the United States, Britain and the European Union had already made pledges that – if implemented – would help avert dangerous global warming.

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Kim Cobb, a professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Tech, was equally reassured that the 1.5°C goal isn’t out of reach.

“However, this new report is a stark reminder of the difference between the emissions pathways required to achieve this goal, and the reality on the ground,” she said. “Simply put, we are far from the right track.”

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