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Earth is ‘on the highway to climate hell’ as temperatures rise to dangerous levels, UN chief warns

THE head of the UN has warned the world is “on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator” as temperatures rise to dangerous levels.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres addressed world leaders gathered at the Cop27 conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

Despite the wide-ranging agreement reached at Cop26 in Glasgow last year, the world body is predicting the planet is likely to see accelerated sea level rises, glacier melting and more record heat waves.

Professor Hannah Cloke of the University of Reading warned: “The time we have to change the course is getting shorter and shorter and shorter and there just feels like a lot of talking and no action, and as a climate scientist it is just awful, it’s really, really frustrating.”

Mr Guterres also warned that “we are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing” with greenhouse gas emissions still growing and temperatures still rising.

He said climate change was “the defining issue of our age. It is the central challenge of our century. It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner.”

Referring to the war in Ukraine, he warned: “Today’s crises cannot be an excuse for backsliding or greenwashing.”

PM Rishi Sunak is attending his first international outing as prime minister following what opponents called a “screeching U-turn,” having planned to stay home to work on domestic financial issues.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Mr Sunak “had to be dragged kicking and screaming into showing up at all.

“When real leadership is required at home and abroad, we have a weak and wobbly prime minister on a day trip.”

Mr Sunak used his speech to call on countries to stick to commitments made at the Cop26 summit hosted by the UK in Glasgow, if it is to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

But Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tweeted that the PM lacked credibility “when his own government hasn’t met finance pledges” and “was continuing fossil fuel subsidies, won’t rule out new coal and is green-lighting more oil and gas.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is also at the conference, said there is an obligation on richer countries that have largely caused climate change to help those suffering its effects.

The call for a loss and damage response fund for nations on the front line of climate change has emerged as one of the key demands from the global South to Cop27.

Sohanur Rahman, from Bangladesh, one of the hardest hit countries, said: “I am from a coastal community where cyclones and storm surges are frequent — we are facing climate disasters every year.

“Climate-vulnerable countries such as Bangladesh should not bear the brunt of the climate crisis alone.”

But former PM Boris Johnson said the UK did not have enough cash to pay “reparations” to low-income countries affected by climate change.

A new report by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) ahead of Cop27 also reported that the Earth is warming faster and sea levels rising more quickly.

Mr Guterres called data from the WMO’s latest state of the global climate report “a chronicle of climate chaos.”

“We must answer the planet’s distress signal with action – ambitious, credible climate action,” he said.

The annual report said that the rise in sea levels over the past decade was double what it was in the 1990s and since January 2020 has jumped at a higher rate than that. 

Since the beginning of the decade, seas have risen at five millimetres a year compared to 2.1 millimetres in the 1990s.

The WMO said the last eight years have been the warmest on record.

Its secretary-general Petteri Taalas said: “The melting [of ice] game we have lost and also the sea level rate.

“There are no positive indicators so far.”

Mr Taalas said the only reason that the globe hasn’t broken annual temperature records in the past few years is because of a rare three-year La Nina weather phenomenon.

“This latest report from the World Meteorological Organisation reads like a lab report for a critically ill patient, but in this case the patient is Earth,” said climate scientist Jennifer Francis of the Woodwell Climate Research Centre in Cape Cod.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn said: “Cop27 must achieve climate justice, support the poorest for loss and damage, and deliver systemic change on a global scale.

“We are running out of time. Solidarity with climate activists and human rights defenders who cannot wait any longer.”

 

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