New UN Report Underscores Climate Change Threat

Climate change continues to threaten the planet. Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels and continue to increase. Emissions are heading in the direction of pre-pandemic levels following a temporary decline caused by the lockdown and economic slowdown. The world is set to see its warmest five years on record – in a trend which is likely to continue – and is not on track to meet agreed targets to keep global temperature increase well below 2 °C or at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

A newly release report from leading science organizations, United in Science 2020, highlights the increasing and irreversible impacts of climate change, which affects glaciers, oceans, nature, economies and human living conditions and is often felt through water-related hazards like drought or flooding. It also documents how COVID-19 has impeded our ability to monitor these changes through the global observing system.

“This has been an unprecedented year for people and planet. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives worldwide. At the same time, the heating of our planet and climate disruption has continued apace,” says UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a foreword to the report.

“Never before has it been so clear that we need long-term, inclusive, clean transitions to tackle the climate crisis and achieve sustainable development. We must turn the recovery from the pandemic into a real opportunity to build a better future,” adds Guterres. “We need science, solidarity and solutions.”

The United in Science 2020 report, the second in a series, is coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with input from the Global Carbon Project, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, the UN Environment Programme and the UK Met Office. It presents the very latest scientific data and findings related to climate change to inform global policy and action.

“Greenhouse gas concentrations – which are already at their highest levels in 3 million years – have continued to rise. Meanwhile, large swathes of Siberia have seen a prolonged and remarkable heatwave during the first half of 2020, which would have been very unlikely without anthropogenic climate change,” says Prof. Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO. “And now 2016–2020 is set to be the warmest five-year period on record. This report shows that whilst many aspects of our lives have been disrupted in 2020, climate change has continued unabated.”

Key findings from the report are available online.

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