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Sticking to ‘cold, hard’ climate facts can end global warming: Guterres

Water collects after rainfall in the desert of Oman.
WMO/Said Alshukaili
Water collects after rainfall in the desert of Oman.

Sticking to ‘cold, hard’ climate facts can end global warming: Guterres

Climate and Environment

World leaders need to listen to and act on solid scientific guidance to urgently reduce global warming, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message at the opening of the new session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday.

Underlining the “urgent need to end global heating with cold, hard facts”, he said the panel’s forthcoming report ahead of the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), to be held in Dubai in November, comes at a pivotal time.

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‘Tip of the tipping point’

“Our world is at a crossroads, and our planet is in the crosshairs,” he said. “We are nearing the point of no return, of overshooting the internationally agreed limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming. We are at the tip of a tipping point.”

The panel, a UN body for assessing the science related to climate change, has put forward, for decades, clear evidence of how people and planet are being affected by climate destruction. Its new assessment will be the first comprehensive report since the Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted in 2015.

You have built the case, setting out the science of climate change and the urgency for climate action,” Mr. Guterres said. “The evidence has been clear, convincing and irrefutable.”

The Panel findings underscore the need to act now, he declared. Citing several recent IPCC reports, he said evidence in 2021 showed for the first time that some of the changes to Earth’s oceans, ice, and land surface were irreversible.

That report also said the changes were “unequivocally” caused by human activity, overwhelmingly from burning fossil fuels and creating unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases.

Progress is possible

Nearly half the world’s population is living in the danger zone of climate impacts, the 2022 IPCC report said. Noting that investments in adaptation must be scaled up, the report also indicated that it is possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius with rapid and deep emissions reductions across all sectors of the global economy.

“The facts are not in question, but our actions are,” he said to the panel. “It is not too late, as you have shown.”

Approaching COP28, he encouraged IPCC to provide leaders with “solid, frank, detailed scientific guidance to make the right decisions for people and planet”.

Leaders “must understand the enormous consequences of delay and the enormous dividends from making the tough but essential choices to accelerate the phasing out of fossil fuels and close the emissions gap, to race to a carbon-free, renewables future, and to secure climate justice, helping communities adapt and build resilience to the worsening impacts,” he said.