In a video address to delegates, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “could not come at a more pivotal time.”
“Our world is at a crossroads — and our planet is in the crosshairs,” he said. “We are nearing the point of no return; of overshooting the internationally agreed limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) of global warming.”
That threshold, agreed in Paris almost eight years ago and measured against average temperatures during pre-industrial times, has become the yardstick for climate scientists who warn of the dangers of an ever hotter planet.
Guterres cited recent IPCC reports showing that while some impacts of global warming are already unavoidable, “it is possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees with rapid and deep emissions reductions across all sectors of the global economy.” Some scientists disagree, noting that the rate at which greenhouse gas is being pumped into the atmosphere makes this limit almost impossible to keep to.
The U.N. chief said the final installment in the IPCC’s sixth reporting cycle — known as the synthesis report because it brings together insights from six previous papers — should provide governments with “solid, frank, detailed scientific guidance to make the right decisions for people and planet” when they gather for the annual world climate conference in Dubai at the end of the year.
Guterres stressed that speeding up the phase-out of fossil fuels is “tough but essential.”
“Show the urgent need to end global heating with cold, hard facts,” he told delegates.
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