The Earth’s temperature continues to rise unabated, with 2020 being one of the three warmest years on record, as extreme weather events combine with the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting millions.
According to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) flagship State of the Global Climate 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, according to a UN news published on Tuesday.
The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record and the decade beginning up to this year was the warmest ever.
“We are on the verge of the abyss,” Secretary-General António Guterres said at a press conference announcing the findings.
The stark warning from WMO comes ahead of the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate this week, convened by United States President Joe Biden, to galvanize efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the targets of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement, agreed by all the nations of the world.
The US President invited 40 world leaders, including Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to the Leaders Summit on Climate he will host on April 22 and 23. The virtual Leaders Summit will be live streamed for public viewing.
The UN chief underscored that 2021, “must be the year for action”, calling for a number of “concrete advances”, before countries gather in Glasgow in November, for COP26 – the 26th session of 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 also urged that climate commitments and plans must be backed with immediate action, and that the trillions of dollars invested by mostly richer nations for domestic COVID-19 recovery, be aligned with the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and that subsidies directed to fossil fuels be shifted to renewable energy.
“Developed countries must lead in phasing out coal – by 2030 in OECD countries, and 2040 elsewhere. No new coal power plants should be built,” Guterres stressed.
The State of the Global Climate report also noted how climate change undermines sustainable development efforts, through a cascading chain of interrelated events that can worsen existing inequalities, as well as raise the potential for feedback loops, perpetuating the deteriorating cycle of climate change.
Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-Secretary, cautioned that the “negative trend” in climate could continue for the coming decades independent of mitigation efforts, calling for greater investments in adaptation.
“The report shows that we have not time to waste. The climate is changing, and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet. This is the year for action”, he said, calling for all countries to commit to zero emissions by 2050.
“One of the most powerful ways to adapt is to invest in early warning services and weather observing networks. Several less developed countries have major gaps in their observing systems and are lacking state-of-the-art weather, climate and water services”, he highlighted.