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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Climate change: World heading in wrong direction – United in Science report

Climate science is clear: we are heading in the wrong direction, according to a new multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which highlights the huge gap between aspirations and reality. Without much more ambitious action, the physical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change will be increasingly devastating, it warns.

Spain wildfires
Wildfires in Spain

The report, United in Science, shows 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. The ambition of emissions reduction pledges for 2030 needs to be seven times higher to be in line with the 1.5 °C goal of the Paris Agreement.

The past seven years were the warmest on record. There is a 48% chance that, during at least one year in the next five years, the annual mean temperature will temporarily be 1.5°C higher than 1850-1900 average. As global warming increases, “tipping points” in the climate system can not be ruled out.

Cities that host billions of people and are responsible for up to 70% of human-caused emissions will face increasing socio-economic impacts. The most vulnerable populations will suffer most, says the report which gives examples of extreme weather in different parts of the world this year.

“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 in a video message.

“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.

Responding to the report, Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network, said: “The terrifying picture painted by the United in Science report is already a lived reality for millions of people facing recurring climate disasters. The science is clear, yet the addiction to fossil fuels by greedy corporations and rich countries is resulting in losses and damages for communities who have done the least to cause the current climate crisis.

“We must change course rapidly and end this dependence on fossil fuels through a just and equitable transition. For those already experiencing the climate emergency, particularly in the global South, the COP27 conference in Egypt must agree to new funding to help them rebuild their lives.”

United in Science provides an overview of the most recent science related to climate change, its impacts and responses. The science is clear – urgent action is needed to mitigate emissions and adapt to the changing climate, says the report.

It includes input from WMO (and its Global Atmosphere Watch and World Weather Research Programmes); the UN Environment Programme, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the World Climate Research Programme, Global Carbon Project; UK Met Office, and the Urban Climate Change Research Network.

It includes relevant headline statements from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report.

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