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U.N. Chief Warns The World About Not Doing Enough To Prevent Climate Disruptions

The Paris Agreement has been ratified by 184 parties, including India, and entered into force in November 2016.

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Climate change, U.S.
Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, N.C. VOA

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday said the world was in deep trouble and not doing enough or moving fast enough to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.

“Climate change is running faster than we are, and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late,” he said in his remarks at the official opening of the two-week long UN climate negotiations, known as COP24, that saw governments and delegates from nearly 200 countries in this Polish city.

“We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with the climate change. For many, people, regions, and even countries, this is already a matter of life and death.

“This meeting is the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed (in 2015),” he said.

He was categorically clear in saying “Our job here in Katowice is to finalise the Paris Agreement Work Programme — the rule book for implementation. I remind all parties that this is a deadline you set for yourselves.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres', climate
UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference with the national and international press to present the results of his visit to Mali and to answer the many questions of journalists.

The rule book will govern national pledges to keep the rise in global temperature to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, and ensuring adequate finances to developing nations.

Climate experts told IANS that the priority outcome at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) will be the finalisation of the ‘Paris rule book’, a Bible for transparent implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement — the first global treaty to reduce emissions by all rich and poor nations.

The COP24 negotiations with the participation of more than 20,000 people from nearly 200 countries are going to be held in the backdrop of grim news on climate change from three UN environment bodies.

This meeting is the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.

“It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation. Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” Guterres said.

Climate change, emissions, Global Warming
U.N. Climate chief Patricia Espinosa (C) is flanked by officials during a press conference at the COP24 climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, VOA

“Nor are we doing enough to capitalize on the enormous social, economic and environmental opportunities of climate action.

“And so, I want to deliver four simple messages.”

First: Science demands a significantly more ambitious response, he said.

Second: The Paris Agreement provides the framework for action, so “we must operationalise it”.

Third: “We have a collective responsibility to invest in averting global climate chaos, to consolidate the financial commitments made in Paris and to assist the most vulnerable communities and nations.”

And fourth: Climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better.

“Let me turn first to science,” he said.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years.

Climate change, carbon
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows yellow-cedar trees growing along Sheep Lake east of the Cascade crest in Washington State. Adding and restoring forests is a cheap way to get substantial amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, a new report says. VOA

The concentration of carbon dioxide is the highest it has been in three million years.

Emissions are now growing again.

The recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that warming could reach 1.5 degrees as soon as 2030, with devastating impacts.

“The latest UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report tells us that the current Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement will lead to global warming of about three degrees by the end of the century,” the Secretary-General said.

He said emissions must decline by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 and be net zero by 2050.

Renewable energy will need to supply half to two-thirds of the world’s primary energy by 2050 with a corresponding reduction in fossil fuels.

“We need to embrace low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development.”

Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

Ensuring adequate finances to developing nations for sustainable low-emissions, he said: “Some 75 per cent of the infrastructure needed by 2050 still remains to be built.”

“Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the grey. That means embracing carbon pricing, eliminating harmful fossil fuel subsidies and investing in clean technologies.

“We also have a collective responsibility to assist the most vulnerable communities and countries — such as small island nations and the least developed countries — by supporting adaptation and resilience.

“Making clear progress to mobilise the pledged $100 billion a year will provide a much-needed positive political signal,” the UN Secretary General said.

“I have appointed the President of France and the Prime Minister of Jamaica to lead the mobilisation of the international community, both public and private, to reach that target in the context of preparation of the Climate Summit I have convened in September of next year.”

“I also urge member states to swiftly implement the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund. It is an investment in a safer, less costly future,” he added.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming: World Bank Doubles Its Funding

Poland is hosting a COP for the third time. The two previous COPs were held in Pozna (2008) and in Warsaw (2013). Poland also presided over a COP in Bonn in 1999.

The Paris Agreement has been ratified by 184 parties, including India, and entered into force in November 2016.

The commitments contained in it include the annual $100 billion goal from donor nations for lower-income countries and develop national climate plans by 2020, including their self-determined goals and targets. (IANS)

Next Story

Worsening Extreme Weather Linked to Climate Change Creating Hardships for Many

Julia Sanger, whose tiny ice cream shop flooded twice in two years in Maryland's historic Ellicott City, joked darkly that the disasters left many local business owners

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Weather, Climate Change, Hardships
FILE - A man walks in a torrential downpour in Ellicott City, Maryland, April 30, 2014. VOA

Worsening extreme weather linked to climate change is creating hardships for many, from immediate deaths and injuries to increases in asthma and heat stroke. But the psychological trauma that often accompanies such losses is barely on the map.

Depression, anxiety, suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder tend to increase after floods, storms, wildfires and heat waves, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), which represents psychologists in the United States.

“The problem with that link is it’s not like so obvious. It’s not like I stick a needle in you, you feel pain right away,” said Anthony Ng, former head of the APA’s caucus on climate change and mental health.

“Some of this is so insidious and gradual that people won’t realize it until it’s too late. That’s why it’s hard for a lot of people to appreciate it.”

Panic

Weather, Climate Change, Hardships
FILE – A car drives on the main street of the former mill town in Ellicott City, Maryland, Aug. 23, 2018. VOA

The debate over how to safeguard residents of picturesque Ellicott City, a tourist draw an hour’s drive north of Washington, D.C., illustrates the challenges many towns are facing as the world becomes warmer and wetter.

The town was devastated in 2016 by a so-called 1,000-year flood — meaning a magnitude with a one-in-1,000 chance of occurring in any year. The Patapsco River, which runs through the town, rose more than 13 feet in less than two hours.

Less than two years later, a 1,000-year storm struck again, overwhelming the tributaries that converge under the old mill town’s buildings and feed into the Patapsco.

Warmer temperatures are increasing heavy downpours, and rainfall has been growing in intensity in the Northeast, according to the government’s 2018 National Climate Assessment, risking power outages and the viability of roads and bridges.

Also Read- Tycoon Humphrey Kariuki Says Tax Fraud Case Fabricated to Malign Him

As Ellicott City has become more built up, floodwater flows across paved roads and rooftops, instead of percolating down through the soil as it used to — a phenomenon known as urban runoff, which is worsening globally as cities grow.

In the wake of the 2018 floods, the county launched the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan, which involves demolishing some old buildings, making tunnels to carry water under roads and clearing waterways more regularly.

Officials are also testing a flood warning system, with emergency sirens telling people to move to higher ground. It has caused some alarm among residents, said Amy Miller, a social worker at the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center.

“You almost have a panic response,” said Miller, whose non-profit organization, based in Columbia, some 8 miles (13 km) south, has provided food, shelter and support to flood survivors.

Weather, Climate Change, Hardships
FILE – Damage along Main Street in historic Ellicott City, Maryland, is viewed Aug. 1, 2016, after the city was ravaged by floodwaters, killing two people and causing devastating damage to homes and businesses, officials said. VOA

“We’re basically exposing ourselves to the perceived threat of a traumatic event.”

Suicides

Grassroots provides 24-hour counseling to people in Ellicott City and the surrounding rolling hills of Howard County who might be feeling suicidal.

Miller has trained farmers to watch out for each other and spot signs of danger, particularly suicide risks.

Also Read- Google Removes 27 Apps that Guided Users to Fake Play Store

Farmers are a high risk group. They tend to live solitary lives, have access to lethal means and face financial stress when hit by poor weather and low prices — factors they cannot control, according to anti-suicide campaigners.

“When your livelihood is impacted, that causes hopelessness,” Miller said. “The hard part for farmers is they work almost 24-7, and it’s really hard for them to seek treatment.”

Stanford University predicted last year that a hotter planet could lead to a surge in suicides by 2050. Its data analysis found suicides had risen 0.7% in the United States and 2.1% in Mexico with a 1°C increase in monthly average temperatures.

The researchers also found — by analyzing the language used in more than a half billion Twitter posts — depressive language increased during hot weather, suggesting worse mental health.

Weather, Climate Change, Hardships
FILE – Residents gather by a bridge to look at cars left crumpled in one of the tributaries of the Patapsco River that burst its banks as it channeled through historic Main Street in Ellicott City, Maryland, May 28, 2018. VOA

Keith Ohlinger, one of the Howard County farmers trained to keep an eye out, said he was driven to the work by the suicide of a young friend who grew up on a nearby farm, planned a career in agriculture and took her own life last year at age 21.

He struggled this spring with heavy rains washing away seeds and soil and leaving hay too wet to be dried and stored for winter feeding.

“Things are changing,” he said. “The Earth is changing, patterns are changing. Things are melting.”

Ohlinger uses his position on the Maryland Agricultural Commission, which advises the government on farming, and at monthly farmers club meetings to bring up mental health, often taboo in the conservative agricultural community.

He said climate change was just one more stress for farmers already worried about commodity prices, credit, bank loans, the price of equipment and old family-run farms being squeezed out by more and more giant residential homes known as McMansions.

“I can’t fix pricing. I can’t fix what the Chinese president or Donald Trump does, but I can surely try and keep someone from killing themselves,” Ohlinger said.

Not everyone in the region is willing to make the link between mental health problems and climate change.

Global warming as a manmade phenomenon is a politically divisive topic in the United States, where President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw from the Paris agreement, a global pact to fight climate change.

“You talk about global warming, but we deal with this stuff all the time,” said another Howard County farmer, Howie Feago.

“Most farmers believe it’s more of an ebb and flow. We know that the weather is going to be up and down. If you’re going to worry about global warming, you probably ought to get some other kind of job because it will drive you nuts.” (VOA)