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Climate collapse: UN chief urges COP28 leaders to get us out of "deep trouble"

In a stark warning on the state of global warming, the United Nations has announced at COP28 that 2023 is on track to be the warmest year on record. 

According to a provisional report from the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), global temperatures have already risen 1.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this year. The alarming revelation comes as world leaders convene for the COP28 conference in Dubai. 

Real-time climate collapse 

In a video statement accompanying the launch of the WMO report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the urgent need for decisive action. “We are living through climate collapse in real time – and the impact is devastating.”

“The world is heating up at an unprecedented pace, new climate data shows, and leaders gathered for the COP28 conference which opened in Dubai on Thursday must get us out of ‘deep trouble.”

Extreme melt season

Guterres said the race is on to maintain the 1.5-degree limit set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, pointing to his recent visits to Antarctica and Nepal. He was shocked by the unprecedented environmental changes, including a significant reduction in Antarctic sea ice and rapidly receding glaciers. 

The WMO report further detailed an “extreme melt season” in western North America and the European Alps, contributing to record-high sea levels due to ongoing ocean warming and ice melt.

Greenhouse gases 

Compounding these challenges, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have hit record highs.

WMO revealed that carbon dioxide levels are 50 percent above the pre-industrial era and that the long-lasting effects of CO2 will cause temperatures to rise for many years to come.

“These are more than just statistics,” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas, calling for action to “limit the risks of an increasingly inhospitable climate in this and the coming centuries.”

Human lives and livelihoods 

The report also highlighted the devastating effects of climate change on human lives and livelihoods. 

Events like Cyclone Daniel in Libya and severe floods in the Horn of Africa, exacerbated by consecutive seasons of drought, underline the grim reality of climate upheaval. These extreme weather events have led to widespread food insecurity and displacement across the globe.

“Record global heat should send shivers down the spines of world leaders,” said Guterres. “And it should trigger them to act.”

Renewable energy

Guterres reiterated his call for countries to increase their commitment to renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, and phase out fossil fuels. 

According to the report, renewable energy capacity grew by 10 percent worldwide last year, led by solar and wind power.

Guterres pointed to the existing roadmap to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. He urged governments to set “clear expectations” for the next round of climate action plans.

COP28 conference

The COP28 conference, running from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai, marks the 28th session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

This year’s conference includes a crucial “global stocktake” to assess progress on emissions reduction and adaptation efforts. 

Climate chaos

The Secretary-General stressed the importance of protecting people from climate chaos by implementing early warnings for extreme weather and operationalizing a fund to assist those most affected by climate disasters.

Guterres also urged developed countries to fulfill their promise of delivering $100 billion per year in climate finance, and to double funding for adaptation efforts. 

With over 60,000 delegates attending, including youth activists and indigenous community representatives, COP28 is a critical juncture for assessing global commitments under the Paris Agreement and accelerating ambitious climate action.

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