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U.N. Head Warns of Imminent Climate Crisis as Temperatures Soar

by | 5 June 2024

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has issued a stark warning regarding climate change, amidst reports of record-breaking global temperatures. Speaking in New York, Guterres highlighted a nearly 90% likelihood of the Earth experiencing its hottest year within the next five years, surpassing 2023 levels. He emphasized the urgency of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Reports from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service confirmed that each of the past 12 months has set new global temperature records. May 2024 was recorded as the warmest May ever, with this pattern expected to continue.

“Like the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, we’re having an outsize impact. In the case of climate, we are not the dinosaurs. We are the meteor,” Guterres said, pulling no punches.

He continued: “It [achieving the 1.5C target] is not a goal. It is a physical limit,” he said. “Every fraction of a degree of global heating counts. The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees could be the difference between extinction and survival for some small island states and coastal communities.”

Guterres also reiterated calls to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, proposed a ban on fossil fuel advertising comparable to tobacco industry restrictions, and urged media to halt such advertisements. This push is linked to concerns over deceptive practices by fossil fuel companies.

Notably, the warming has triggered significant environmental impacts. Severe heat waves are affecting multiple regions, including deadly temperatures in India and record-breaking heats expected in California. Consequentially, recent flooding in Brazil, fuelled by human-induced climate changes, has led to substantial loss and damage. The U.N.’s climate forecasts suggest these extreme weather conditions will become more frequent.

In summary, the upcoming years are critical in addressing climate change impacts, requiring significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy to avert further environmental degradation.