The increasing number of natural disasters and dangers linked to climate change, highlighted in a major UN report released on 28 March, represents “another strong wake-up call” to the world, which must be countered by finding sustainable solutions quickly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said.
Speaking at the launch of the State of the Global Climate report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Mr. Guterres reiterated his call for action, underlining that the alarming conclusion that climate change is accelerating, “proves what we have been saying: climate change is moving faster than our efforts to address it.”
This was why he had convened the Climate Action Summit due to take place on 23 September, he said, sitting alongside the President of the General Assembly and the head of WMO, briefing correspondents in New York.
‘Don’t come with a speech, come with a plan’
Mr. Guterres called on Heads of State to attend his climate action summit in New York on 23 September, and achieve positive change. “Don’t come with a speech, come with a plan,” he said, adding: “This is what science says is needed. It is what young people around the globe are rightfully demanding.”
I want the summit to demonstrate the benefits of climate action and how everyone can benefit”, he said. “A growing number of governments, cities and businesses…already understand that climate solutions can strengthen our economies, improve air quality and public health and protect our environment.”
President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said she had pledged throughout her time in office there was a need for “a holistic understanding of the socio-economic consequences of increasingly intense extreme weather on countries around the world”, adding that the report “makes an important contribution to our combined international action to focus attention on this very critical problem.”
WMO said that the temperature rise last year, came despite the agreement by the international community in December 2015 in Paris, to curb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, and to limit global temperature rise to well below 2C.
Paris Agreement increasingly under threat – WMO chief
“The time remaining to achieve commitments under the Paris Agreement is quickly running out,” said WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas.
Outlining the report’s key findings, Professor Taalas warned of record greenhouse gas concentrations last year, that drove global temperatures towards increasingly dangerous levels.
According to WMO, carbon dioxide levels were at 357 parts per million (ppm) in 1994, rising to 405.5 ppm in 2017.
Professor Taalas also described “striking” evidence of record warming from 2015 to 2018, increasing sea-level rise and the loss of sea ice in both northern and southern polar regions.
Idai victims ‘personify why we need to limit climate change’
Noting that extreme weather events have continued into 2019 – most recently with Tropical Cyclone Idai, which caused devastating floods and loss of life in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi – Professor Taalas said that its victims “personify why we need the global agenda on sustainable development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction”.
“We are seeing record rises in land and ocean temperatures, sea levels and greenhouse gas concentrations,” Mr. Guterres told journalists. “Second, we are seeing, more and more, the dramatic impact of extreme weather conditions. Last year saw 14 weather events where the devastation cost more than $1 billion…The average number of people exposed to heatwaves has increased by some 125 million since the beginning of the century, with deadly consequences.”
2019 so far: record warmth in Europe, unusual cold in North America
According to WMO, the start of this year has also seen warm record daily winter temperatures in Europe, unusual cold in North America and searing heatwaves in Australia. The extent of ice in the Arctic and Antarctica is yet again well below average, it said.
From now until May, WMO also forecasts above-average sea surface temperatures, which are expected to lead to above-normal land temperature, particularly in tropical latitudes.
General Assembly meets on climate change and sustainable development.