The United Nations is urging world leaders to take immediate and aggressive action against climate change following the release of two reports.
“The state of the planet is broken,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech at Columbia University earlier this week. “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal.”
One report, from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, concluded that a 6 percent reduction in coal, oil, and natural gas production would be necessary by 2030 to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. But, according to the U.N., a review of eight top fossil-fuel-producing nations showed planned production increases by 2 percent. That’s twice the amount of carbon-based fuel recommended to hit Paris Agreement targets.
The other report comes from the World Meteorological Organization. It concluded that 2020 will be the hottest year on record. Experts say it will end 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than the last half of the 1800s.
“There is at least a one-in-five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2024,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.
The report also found that all seven key climate indicators are worsening. 2020 saw more than 50 million people impacted by climate-related disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said. ”Countries in Central America are suffering from the triple-impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota, COVID-19, and pre-existing humanitarian crises.”
Guterres pointed to some of the catastrophic events that ravaged the planet this year.
He says “apocalyptic” fires, floods, cyclones, and hurricanes are increasingly “the new normal.”
But he remained hopeful.
“I firmly believe that 2021 can be a new kind of leap year — the year of a quantum leap towards carbon neutrality,” Guterres said. He says it’s not currently possible to meet global reduction targets without the participation of the United States. President Trump withdrew from the Paris Accord Agreement. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to rejoin the Accord and take aggressive climate action.
Guterres says the two new reports “spell out how close we are to climate catastrophe.” And he urged world leaders to incorporate clean energy in pandemic recovery plans. The Secretary-General said it’s critical nations stop funding and subsidizing fossil fuels.
The U.N. reports come after Royal Dutch Shell is facing a lawsuit over human rights violations because of its continued production of fossil fuels.
“Human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos,” Guterres said. “But that means human action can solve it.”