As COP28 starts this week in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), leaders must act to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, protect people from climate chaos, and end the fossil fuel age.
During a media encounter, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said leaders must not let the hopes of people around the world for a sustainable planet melt away.
“They must make COP28 count,” he said. “We need a global commitment to triple renewables, double energy efficiency, and bring clean power to all, by 2030.
“We need a clear and credible commitment to phase out fossil fuels on a time-frame that aligns with the 1.5-degree limit.
“And we need climate justice – setting the world up for a huge increase in investment in adaptation and loss and damage to protect people from climate extremes,” he said.
He spoke about three decisions to avoid the melting of Antarctica.
“It is clear that if we now take decisions, tripling for 2030, the renewable energies available, and it is possible and it is cheaper than doing anything else. Doubling energy efficiency, because if we do not spend energy, that is the best way to protect the climate. And finally, phasing out fossil fuels with a time frame that is compatible with 1.5 degrees. So if there is political will to take these three decisions, we are perfectly on time to avoid any catastrophe in Antarctica and around the world,” said the UN head.
The Melting Antarctica
Greenland and Antarctica are melting more than three times as quickly as they did in the early 1990s. According to recent data, Antarctic sea ice in September was 1.5 million square kilometers less than it typically is during this time of year. That’s about the same area as Portugal, Spain, France, and Germany put together.
Additionally, Antarctic sea ice reached a record low this year.
“Melting sea ice means rising seas. And that directly endangers lives and livelihoods in coastal communities across the globe. Floods and saltwater intrusion imperil crops and drinking water – threatening food and water security.
“Homes are no longer insurable. Coastal cities and entire small islands risk being lost to the seas. And vital natural systems are at risk of being disrupted.
“The movement of waters around Antarctica distributes heat, nutrients and carbon around the world, helping to regulate our climate and regional weather patterns.
“But that system is slowing as the Southern Ocean grows warmer and less dense. Further slowdown – or entire breakdown – would spell catastrophe,” said António Guterres.
The cause of all this destruction is clear: The fossil fuel pollution coating the Earth and heating the planet.
According to the UN Chief, “without changing course, we’re heading towards a calamitous three-degree Celsius temperature rise by the end of the century. Sea surface temperatures are already at record highs. If we continue as we are, and I strongly hope we will not, the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets will cross a deadly tipping point.
“This alone would ultimately push up sea levels by around ten meters. We are trapped in a deadly cycle. Ice reflects the sun’s rays. As it vanishes, more heat is absorbed into the Earth’s atmosphere. That means more heating, which means more storms, floods, fires and droughts across the globe. And more melting. Which means, with less ice, even more heating,” he noted.
He concluded by emphasizing that “if there is a defining issue of our times, if there is what we can call the most relevant threat to humankind, it is climate. So to be passionate about climate is to be passionate about humanity”.
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