'Climate change is moving faster than our efforts to address it,' UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday.
UNITED NATIONS – Rising carbon emissions pushed the world to record high temperatures on land and in the oceans last year, according to a new U.N. report published Thursday.
The World Meteorological Organization survey found that extreme weather events linked to climate change are affecting larger swaths of the world’s population. Some 35 million people were affected by floods in 2018, nine million by drought and tens of millions more suffered from extreme heat, including a European heat wave that briefly saw temperatures cross 90 degrees Fahrenheit within the Arctic Circle.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres:
“This report is indeed another strong wake up call. It proves what we have been saying – that climate change is moving faster than our efforts to address it.”
By the U.N.’s estimate, the world would need to cap global emissions by 2030 to avert global warming of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a goal that looks increasingly impossible to hit.
But climate activism is increasing, be it in the streets of European capitals or in the halls of Capitol Hill.
Earlier this week, a speech by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went viral in which she denounced Republicans for painting efforts to clean up the water and air as elitist.
Asked to comment on the speech, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas described his frustration at the lack of climate action and said he worries the wealthy and influential don’t understand the urgency of climate change because they don’t experience it the same way, an observation he made after visiting New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“In the USA they were able to mostly take their private cars and drive away. The rich people, they were having insurance for their houses and they were able to rebuild their houses. But the poorest people didn’t have insurance and they were hit the hardest.”
Ocasio-Cortez ended her speech this week by saying the costs of her Green New Deal would be far less than the costs of responding to climate change damage, and the U.N.’s findings back her up. By one estimate it could be 20 times costlier to respond to climate change than to pay up front to try and mitigate against it.