Emergency: Droughts, Wildfires, Floods, Extreme Storms Must be Dealt With in 2020

Published March 12th, 2020 - 10:00 GMT
Antonio Guterres (Twitter)
Antonio Guterres (Twitter)
Highlights
Guterres stressed that climate conference COP26, slated to take place this November in Glasgow, would be particularly critical in responding to the climate emergency.

The year 2020 will be "pivotal" in addressing the current climate emergency, the secretary-general of the UN said on Tuesday.

Emphasizing the urgency of the fight against a potential catastrophe, Antonio Guterres said: "We count the cost in human lives, livelihoods as droughts, wildfires, floods and extreme storms take their deadly toll."

Speaking at a news conference on the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) State of the Global Climate Report 2019, Guterres underlined that it was "crystal clear" that global warming was accelerating, with 2019 being the second hottest year on record and greenhouse gas concentrations at their highest levels in three million years.

"Ocean heat is at record levels, with temperatures rising at the equivalent of five Hiroshima bombs a second," he added.

Guterres stressed that climate conference COP26, slated to take place this November in Glasgow, would be particularly critical in responding to the climate emergency.

"We need all countries who demonstrate that we can achieve emissions reductions of 45% from the 2010 level this decade and that we will reach net-zero emissions by mid-century and we know this is the only way to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees celsius," he said.

Stressing that a climate breakdown is "already causing calamity and more is to come," Guterres asserted that "national climate plans," "strategies to reach net-zero emissions by 2050," "robust package of programs, projects, initiatives" and "finance" would be the four main priorities in COP26.

"It's time to end our addiction to coal," he said, adding that investment in renewables and green technologies must increase.

Climate report

Following Guterres's speech, Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the WMO, shared key figures included in the 2019 climate report.

Several UN bodies such as UNESCO and the World Health Organization (WHO) also contributed to the report which indicated that greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise in 2019, with no signs of slowdown so far in 2020.

The study said that three major greenhouse gasses -- carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide -- continued to rise in 2019 after having reached record levels in 2018.

Temperatures also saw unprecedented levels in 2019, the report reiterated, saying that since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding one since 1850.

It showed that global sea ice in 2019 declined in both the Arctic and the Antarctic, with ocean heat content -- a measure of heat accumulation -- reaching "record-high levels again in 2019" due to greenhouse gasses.

"Over the decade 2009-2018, the ocean absorbed around 23% of the annual CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions, lessening the increase in atmospheric concentrations [...] As the ocean warms it expands and sea levels rise. This rise is further increased by the melting of ice on land, which then flows into the sea," it added.

Stressing that extreme weather and climate change continue to impact food security and population displacement, the report indicated that rising temperatures and changing weather patterns such as rainfall have already affected terrestrial ecosystems, like forests and grasslands, as well as agricultural lands.

This article has been adapted from its original source.     


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