World shudders at 'terrifying' UN climate report

Patrick Galey - Agence France-Presse
World shudders at 'terrifying' UN climate report
The island of Manhattan is seen from the Staten Island ferry in the Hudson River on August 09, 2021 in New York City. A climate report released Monday by the United Nation's (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicts that unless humans make immediate changes to limit methane emissions, carbon dioxides and other heat trapping gases, the earth will continue to warm with devastating effects on human and animal life. The report is based on the analysis of more than 14,000 studies and comes at a time when America is experiencing record high temperatures, droughts and spreading wildfires.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP

PARIS, France — World leaders, green groups and influencers reacted on Monday to a "terrifying" UN climate science report with a mix of horror and hopefulness as the scale of the emergency became abundantly clear.

US presidential envoy on climate and former secretary of state John Kerry said the IPCC report, which warned the world is on course to reach 1.5C of warming around 2030, showed "the climate crisis is not only here, it is growing increasingly severe".

Current US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement that world leaders, the private sector and individuals must "act together with urgency and do everything it takes to protect our planet".

Frans Timmermans, the European Union's deputy climate chief, said the 3,500-page report proved "it's not too late to stem the tide and prevent runaway climate change". 

Britain's Boris Johnson, whose government is hosting a crucial UN climate summit in November, said the assessment "makes for sobering reading".

"I hope today's IPCC report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical COP26 summit," he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the November climate conference to fully recognise the gravity of the situation, saying on Twitter: "The time for outrage is behind us... In Glasgow, let's seal a deal that matches the urgency."

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed said the document confirmed that climate-vulnerable nations such as his were "on the edge of extinction".


Saleemul Huq, director of Dhaka-based environmental think tank ICCCAD, said the IPCC report was "the final warning that bubble of empty promises is about to burst".

He said it showed G20 countries needed to accelerate emissions cuts to ensure their economies are in line with the 1.5C target. 

"It's suicidal, and economically irrational to keep procrastinating," Huq said.

The Indian government called the report a "clarion call for the developed countries to undertake immediate, deep emission cuts and decarbonisation of their economies".

India is the world's third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases but its emissions per head are low owing to its large population of 1.3 billion.

The report "vindicates India’s position that historical cumulative emissions are the source of the climate crisis that the world faces today," the environment ministry said in a statement.

Dorothy Guerrero, head of policy at Global Justice Now, said the report was a "terrifying warning of our future unless drastic action is taken."

"There is no denying the science of the climate crisis," she said. 

"But policymakers refuse to face up to the fact that it is rooted in economics and a history of colonial exploitation."


Many interpreted the IPCC's assessment as a clarion call to overhaul the fossil fuel-powered global economy.

"Where can we start? Almost everywhere," said Katherine Hayhoe, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy. 

"Accelerating the transition to clean energy; reforming our most environmentally damaging activities; and recalibrating financial flows to accelerate the economic transition."

Climate wunderkind Greta Thunberg said the report was a "solid (but cautious) summary" of the state of the planet. 

"It doesn't tell us what to do," she said on Twitter. 

"It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis."

Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate tweeted: "Scientists warn time running out on the 1.5C target! World leaders must get serious about climate change!"

Fossil fall guys

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday's report "must sound a death knell" for coal, oil and gas and warned that fossil fuels were destroying the planet.

Greenpeace was even more direct. 

"Dear fossil fuel industry," the charity said on Twitter. "We'll see you in court."






As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 16, 2022 - 6:47am

Follow this page for updates about climate change and information on current environmental issues. Main photo by Efigenio Toledo IV

August 16, 2022 - 6:47am

UN member states resume talks aimed at finally completing a treaty to protect the world's high seas, a vital yet fragile resource that covers nearly half the planet.

A host of NGOs and affected countries say the pact is urgently needed to improve environmental stewardship over the vast, yet largely unregulated area as it faces growing challenges.

But the COVID-19 pandemic slowed negotiations for two years, and a session in March that was supposed to have been conclusive made progress but ran out of time. — AFP

August 15, 2022 - 10:00am

After four inconclusive sessions, UN member states resume talks aimed at finally completing a treaty to protect the world's high seas, a vital yet fragile resource that covers nearly half the planet.

A host of NGOs and affected countries say the pact is urgently needed to improve environmental stewardship over the vast, yet largely unregulated, area as it faces growing challenges.

But the Covid-19 pandemic slowed negotiations for two years, and a session in March that was supposed to have been conclusive made progress but ran out of time.

The new round of talks opening Monday is set to run through August 26 at United Nations headquarters in New York. — AFP

August 14, 2022 - 2:47pm

On the ground, two officers from a special mobile brigade of France's paramilitary gendarmerie speed a long a forest track.

Above them, a helicopter scans the landscape to warn them of any fires or anyone who might be looking to start one.

These are the members of a newly created police team who have just started patrolling in southwest France to seek out and arrest the fire-starters devastating the region's forests.

In the last week, no less than 20 fires have broken out in the forest bordering the seaside resort of Soulac-sur-Mer in the La Gironde department of southwest France, says the local gendarmerie.

While some have burned for just a 100 square metres (322 square feet), the largest devoured 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest.

Scorched trees and charred trunks line the paths and cycle paths that criss-cross the woods.

To stop the devastation, local officials have sent in the new unit, the Forest Vigilance Platoon (PVF) made up of 15 reservist gendarmes, a senior police officer and two motorcyclists from the mobile brigade, backed up by the helicopter.

Spread across three zones, the PVF patrol the forest on motorbikes, all-terrain bicycles or in cars, where possible, on the hunt for fire-starters. -- AFP

August 5, 2022 - 7:28am

The US Senate this weekend will begin debating a major health and climate investment bill, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says, expressing confidence that it will be passed.

The bill, a trimmed version of President Joe Biden's campaign promise, earmarks nearly $370 billion for clean energy projects and climate initiatives, as well as $64 billion to provide secure subsidies for medical coverage and reduce drug prices.

"I expect we will have some late nights and extended debates here on the floor," Schumer says. "But in the end, Democrats are going to make good on our word to pass the Inflation Reduction Act." — AFP

July 31, 2022 - 11:47am

Little snow cover and glaciers melting at an alarming rate amid Europe's sweltering heatwaves have put some of the most classic Alpine hiking routes off-limits.

Usually at the height of summer, tourists flock to the Alps and seek out well-trodden paths up to some of Europe's most iconic peaks. 

But with warmer temperatures speeding up glacier melt and thawing permafrost -- which scientists say are driven by climate change -- routes that are usually safe this time of year now face hazards like falling rocks released from the ice.

"Currently in the Alps, there are warnings for around a dozen peaks, including emblematic ones like Matterhorn and Mount Blanc," Pierre Mathey, head of the Swiss mountain guide association, told AFP.

This is happening far earlier in the season than normal, he said.

"Usually we see such closures in August, but now they have started at the end of June and are continuing in July." -- AFP

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