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“Rapid” reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed to fight climate change, UN chief says

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GENEVA (AP) – The United Nations chief on Thursday called for “immediate, rapid and large-scale” reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming and avert climate catastrophe.

Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual meeting next week, Antonio Guterres warned governments that climate change is advancing faster than expected and fossil fuel emissions have already rebounded from a pandemic drop.

Speaking at the launch of a UN-backed report summarizing current efforts to tackle climate change, Guterres said recent extreme weather conditions – from Hurricane Ida in the United States to flooding in Western Europe and the deadly heat wave in the Pacific Northwest – have shown that no country is safe. climate-related disasters.

“These changes are just the start of the worst to come,” he said, calling on governments to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we will not be able to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Celsius). Fahrenheit), ”Guterres said. “The consequences will be catastrophic.

In their report, United in Science 21, six United Nations agencies and scientific organizations drew on existing research to assert that there is a direct link between man-made emissions, record temperatures and disasters that have a negative impact. tangible impact on individuals and societies, including “billions of working hours (…) lost due to heat alone.”

Due to the long-term effects of many emissions already released into the atmosphere, further impacts are inevitable, they noted.

“Even with ambitious measures to slow greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels will continue to rise and threaten low-lying islands and coastal populations around the world,” the authors wrote.

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University of Michigan environmental dean Jonathan Overpeck, who was not on the report, said scientists have already said so, but it’s important: “The situation is deteriorating, we know. why and we know how to solve it in a way that leaves us, and future generations, with a better, healthier and more sustainable world.

Guterres urged governments to come up with more ambitious plans to cut emissions by the next UN climate summit in Glasgow, including a pledge to stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by the middle of the century that can be deleted.

Michael Mann, a leading climatologist at Pennsylvania State University, said he agreed with the report’s urgent message, but questioned some of the harsher warnings it contained.

In particular, the 1.5 ° C threshold agreed in Paris did not apply to individual years, some of which may be unusually hot due to other factors, he said.

“This misleading framing unnecessarily fuels public fears that we have already crossed that threshold and that it is too late now to prevent it,” Mann said. “We don’t. And we don’t.

He also noted that the decline in emissions seen during the pandemic could be seen as a positive sign that significant reductions are possible if entire economies are weaned off fossil fuels.

The United States, Britain and the European Union have already made commitments that, if implemented, would help prevent dangerous global warming, Mann said.

Kim Cobb, professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, was also reassured that the 1.5C target is not out of range.

“However, this new report is a stark reminder of the difference between the emission pathways needed to achieve this goal and the reality on the ground,” she said. “Simply put, we are a long way off. “

Jordans reported from Berlin. AP science writer Seth Borenstein contributed from Washington.


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