The impacts of climate change are “heading into unknown territories of destruction”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Tuesday, as he released a multi-agency scientific report analyzing the latest research on the issue.
The report led by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warns that the world is going “in the wrong direction” regarding climate change.
As greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise and world leaders fail to adopt strategies to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the Earth is inching closer to climate tipping points, the United in Science report says.
Already, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense.
“Heat waves in Europe. Massive floods in Pakistan… There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters,” Guterres said in a video message.
“The fossil fuel free-for-all must end now. It is a recipe for permanent climate chaos and suffering”, he added.
Although emissions fell during the coronavirus lockdowns, planet-warming emissions have risen beyond pre-pandemic levels. Preliminary data reveal that global carbon dioxide emissions in the first half of this year were 1.2% higher than in the same period of 2019, the report said.
The last seven years have been the hottest on record.
The global average temperature has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. And scientists expect the annual average could be between 1.1C and 1.7C warmer until 2026, meaning the 1.5C warming threshold is likely to be exceeded within the next five years.
The report also said the world was far from on track to limit warming to 1.5C. Ambitions to reduce emissions by 2030 need to increase sevenfold to keep the target within reach.
By the end of the century, without aggressive climate action, global warming is estimated to reach 2.8C. But even at current levels of warming we could pass through several climate tipping points.
The ocean current that moves heat from the tropics to the northern hemisphere, for example, is now at its slowest in 1,000 years, putting historical weather patterns at risk, says the report, which includes input from the UN Environment Program and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. .
Almost half of the world’s population is considered very vulnerable to the effects of climate change: floods, heat, droughts, forest fires and storms.
By the 2050s, more than 1.6 billion city dwellers will regularly experience three-month average temperatures of at least 35C (95F).
To help communities cope, the WMO has pledged to put every person on Earth under the protection of an early warning system within the next five years.