“We are on the verge of the abyss,” Secretary General António Guterres warned on Monday as a UN report included South Asia among the regions adversely impacted by climate change.
The change caused “abnormally high rainfall at various times of the year 2020 in the Sub-continent and neighbouring areas,” like China, warned the report the UN chief launched in New York on Monday.
The annual state of the global climate report described 2020 as “one of the three warmest years on record” as the Earth’s temperature continued to rise.
The report noted that extreme weather events had combined with Covid-19 pandemic, impacting millions of people across the globe.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO), which prepared the report, the global average temperature in 2020 was about 1.2-degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level.
That figure is dangerously close to the 1.5-degree Celsius limit advocated by scientists to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record, and the decade beginning up to this year, was the warmest ever.
The stark warning from WMO comes ahead of the virtual Leaders Summit on climate this week, convened by United States President Joe Biden, to galvanise efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the targets of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement.
At his New York news conference, the UN chief urged leaders to make 2021 “the year for action” by taking “concrete actions” before countries gather in Glasgow in November for COP26 – the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“Countries need to submit ambitious new nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that were designed by the Paris Agreement.
“Their climate plans for the next 10 years must be much more efficient,” he said. To do so, he asked UN member states to back their plans with commitments and immediate action.
Mr Guterres urged the world’s rich nations, which were spending trillions of dollars to overcome the Covid-19 crisis at home, to align their plans with UN development goals. He also suggested shifting subsidies to fossil fuels to investments in renewable energy to prevent a global climate crisis.
“Developed countries must lead in phasing out coal – by 2030 in OECD countries, and by 2040 elsewhere. No new coal power plants should be built,” he stressed.
The 2020 State of the Climate report noted that concentrations of the major greenhouse gases continued to increase in 2019 and 2020, with global average for carbon dioxide concentrations having already exceeded 410 parts per million (ppm), with a
further warning that if the concentration follows the same pattern as in previous years, it could reach or exceed 414 ppm this year.
It also noted that ocean acidification and deoxygenation continued, impacting ecosystems, marine life and fisheries, as well as reducing its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
Furthermore, 2019 saw the highest ocean heat level on record, and the trend likely continued in 2020, as did the global mean sea-level rise.