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UN Chief António Guterres Warns The International Community About Global Warming

In September 2019, Guterres plans to convene a climate summit in New York to try to push climate action to the top of the international agenda.

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U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned Monday that climate change is moving faster than efforts to combat it and that the international community needs to “put the brake” on greenhouse gas emissions, which drive global warming.

“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us,” Guterres told a gathering of youth, business leaders and diplomats at U.N. headquarters.

“We are careening towards the edge of the abyss,” he said, standing at a podium in front of a rain-splattered window. “It is not too late to shift course. But every day that passes means the world heats up a little more, and the cost of our inaction mounts.”

The U.N. chief renewed his call for action on the eve of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. California announced Monday that it is committing to 100 percent clean electricity by 2045.

The summit aims to mobilize international and local leaders from states, cities, business and civil society with national government leaders, scientists, students and nonprofits.

UN Chief
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening ceremony of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. VOA

Paris agreement

Guterres said the targets agreed to in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord are the “bare minimum” to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In the agreement, world leaders committed to stop global temperatures rising by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to keep it as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.

“But scientists tell us that we are far off track,” he cautioned, noting these commitments represent just one-third of what is needed.

“We need to shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels,” Guterres said. “We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun.”

The U.N. says that the planet is still consuming 85 percent of its energy from fossil fuels and only 15 percent from renewable energies, including nuclear wind and solar power.

The United States, which is the only country to have signed and then withdrawn from the Paris accord, has loosened federal regulations on the fossil fuel industry under President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump has also vowed to save the coal industry.

Guterres urged governments to end subsidies for fossil fuels and institute carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of greenhouse gas emissions.

climate
An aerial view of downtown San Francisco, California

He said the rise of renewable energy has been “tremendous.”

“Today, it is competitive with — or even cheaper — than coal and oil, especially if one factors in the cost of pollution.”

Guterres singled out China, a major polluter, for investing $126 billion last year in renewable energy — a 30 percent increase over 2016. He noted that countries that have long depended on oil, such as the Arab Gulf states and Norway, are looking at ways to diversify their economies away from fossil fuels.

“We know what is happening to our planet,” Guterres said. “We know what we need to do. And we even know how to do it. But sadly, the ambition of our action is nowhere near where it needs to be.”

‘Vast opportunity’

Guterres said the transition to cleaner energy and lower carbon emissions can have great economic opportunities.

“The International Labor Organization reports that common sense green economy policies could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030,” he noted.

Climate
In this file photo taken Oct. 10, 2015, a bus moves past by solar power and wind power farms in northwestern China’s Ningxia Hui region.

He appealed for leadership from all sectors to mitigate the impact of global warming.

In September 2019, Guterres plans to convene a climate summit in New York to try to push climate action to the top of the international agenda.

Also Read: Plastic Contribute to Global Warming: Scientists

“I am calling on world leaders to come to next year’s climate summit prepared to report not only on what they are doing, but what more they intend to do when they convene in 2020 for the U.N. climate conference, and where commitments will be renewed and surely ambitiously increased,” he said.

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Skyscrapers May Have Made The Impact Of Hurricane Harvey Worse: Study

The scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

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Hurricane
Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, VOA

Humans helped make recent devastating U.S. hurricanes wetter but in different ways, two new studies find.

Hurricane Harvey snagged on the skyscrapers of Houston, causing it to slow and dump more rain than it normally would, one study found. The city’s massive amounts of paving had an even bigger impact by reducing drainage. Land development in the metro area, on average, increased the chances of extreme flooding by 21 times, study authors said.

A second study looked at last year’s major Hurricanes Maria and Irma and 2005’s deadly Katrina and used computer simulations to see what would have happened if there had been no human-caused global warming. The study found that climate change significantly increased rainfall from those three storms, but did not boost their wind speed.

Both studies are in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

Hurricane, skyscraper
A smoky haze envelopes the skyscrapers and Rocky Mountains that usually can be seen as a backdrop to the city from a high-rise building, Aug. 20, 2018, in Denver. VOA

Houston was a literal drag on Harvey as it sloshed through, with the storm getting tripped up by the skyscrapers, said study co-author Gabriele Villarini, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Iowa.

Co-author Gabe Vecchi, a climate scientist at Princeton University, said that forced the storm to move up higher, causing more concentrated rain over Houston and slowing, which also made more rain.

He compared it to a river running over rocks, creating bubbles.

“That’s sort of what’s going on here,” he said.

This effect is dwarfed, though, by the paving and building that don’t allow water to sink into the ground, Vecchi said.

Harvey’s record rainfall reached 5 feet in one spot near Houston. The scientists used computer simulations to see the effects of urbanization. In parts of the Houston metro area, the effects of development ranged from a 10 percent higher risk of extreme flooding in the less developed northwest to nearly 92 times the risk in the northeast, they reported.

Hurricane Florence, Lawmakers,
A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro N.C. VOA

That’s on top of the unique weather patterns that made Harvey slow down and stall and climate change which brought more water into the storm, Vecchi said.

MIT hurricane and climate expert Kerry Emanuel, who wasn’t part of the study, called the Harvey study “a real advance in our understanding of hurricane impacts on urban areas.”

But Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon wasn’t convinced. He said the team used generic shapes instead of the actual Houston skyline. He said the storm’s wind speeds may have slowed, but that’s different from the storm’s forward movement slowing.

The other study in Nature looked at a variety of historical damaging storms and tried to calculate past and future effects of climate change. In three cases, the scientists simulated the storms without the changes in the climate from greenhouse gases, showing that global warming increased rainfall 8.9 percent in Hurricane Maria , 6.3 percent in Hurricane Irma and 8.7 percent in Hurricane Katrina .

Maria hit Puerto and Rico and other parts of the Caribbean. Irma hit the Caribbean and Florida, while Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Climate Change, Hurricanes
Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C.. VOA

In Maria’s case, a warming climate concentrated heavier rain in the center of the storm and reduced it on the edges, said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For 15 storms, which included the devastating Typhoon Haiyan , the potent Gilbert and 1992’s Hurricane Andrew , the scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

Also Read: Vietnam Does Its Part in Cleaning The Environment, Cleans Plastic

“We are beginning to see a climate change influence emerge on tropical cyclones and that’s coming out as rainfall,” said study lead author Christina Patricola, an atmospheric scientist at the national lab.

Although replicating a storm in a different climate is difficult and can’t account for certain changes, this work bolsters science understanding of how climate change alters hurricanes, Emanuel said. (VOA)