May 9, 2019

UN chief predicts ‘total disaster’ if warming not stopped

The United Nations secretary-general said the world must dramatically change the way it fuels factories, vehicles, and homes to limit future warming to a level scientist call nearly impossible.

That’s because the alternative “would mean a catastrophic situation for the whole world,” António Guterres told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

Guterres said he's about to tour Pacific islands to see how climate change is devastating them as part of his renewed push to fight it. He is summoning world leaders to the UN in September to tell them “they need to do much more in order for us to be able to reverse the present trends and to defeat the climate change.”


That means, he said, the world has to change, not in small incremental ways but in big “transformative” ways, into a green economy with electric vehicles and "clean cities."

Guterres said he will ask leaders to stop subsidising fossil fuels. Burning coal, oil, and gas triggers warming by releasing heat-trapping gases.

He said he wants countries to build no new coal power plants after 2020. He wants them to put a price on the use of carbon. And ultimately, he wants to make sure that by 2050 the world is no longer putting more greenhouse gases into the air than nature sucks out.

Global temperatures have already risen about 1.8 degrees since the industrial age began. The issue is how much more the thermometers will rise.

In 2015, the world’s nations set a goal to limit global warming to no more than 0.9 degrees from now. Most scientists say it is highly unlikely, if not outright undoable, to keep man-made climate change that low, especially since emissions of heat trapping gases are rising, renewable energy growth is plateauing, and some countries’ leaders and voters are balking. A panel of scientists the UN asked to look at the issue ran computer models for more than 500 future scenarios, and less than 2% achieved those warming limits.

Guterres said the wholesale economic changes needed to keep the temperature from rising another degree or more may be painful, but there will be more pain if the world fails.

“If you don't hang on to that goal, what you'll achieve is a total disaster,” the secretary-general said in his 38th floor conference room.

If countries only do what they promised in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, it would be catastrophic because the world would warm by another 4.5 degrees, Guterres said, adding “that is why we need to dramatically accelerate … what everybody knows needs to be done.”

Yet, globally the trends are going the other way. University of Michigan environment dean Jonathan Overpeck said it looks unlikely that the world could prevent another 1.8 degrees of warming, let alone 0.9 degrees.

And in an odd way that gives the UN chief optimism.

Because as disasters mount and deaths increase, the public, especially youths, will realize that warming is "a dramatic threat to the whole of humankind,” Guterres said.

So, the worse it gets, the more people will demand change, he said.

That's why he's about to visit the islands of Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean, which he said is hit hardest by climate change.

Guterres said he wants to use the determination and moral authority of the people who live on the threatened islands to convince world leaders to make necessary change.

SOURCE: AP/PACNEWS
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