“You are failing us” was the headline-grabbing statement from Greta Thunberg’s four-and-a-half-minute address to world leaders at last Monday’s UN Climate Action Summit.
Though many world leaders were in attendance, there were notable absentees including representatives from Canada and Australia. President Trump left early, hearing only Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech.
Central to informing the summit was the recent World Meteorological Organisations (WMO) report, stating that the impact of global warming is speeding up. The report cited the period 2014 to 2019 as the warmest on record with temperatures rising by 1.1 degree since 1850.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a 1.5 degree increase above pre-industrial levels would entail “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes on all aspects of society.”
The WMO report also found that since 1993 the sea levels have risen an average of 3.2 mm per year and in the last five years, this average has risen to 5 mm per year.
The IPCC estimated that the Andes, North Asia and Central Europe could lose 80 per cent of their ice by 2100. Such a change would disrupt over 700 million people’s homes in coastal mega-cities including New York and island states. Not only this, but high carbon use produces vast excess heat, of which 90 per cent is being absorbed by oceans which are becoming increasingly acidic and causing mass glacial melt in Arctic zones. The ocean is becoming increasingly uninhabitable for marine life.
With recent humanitarian crises caused by tropical storms, heatwaves and wildfires being directly linked to these issues, the UN Secretary General, speaking to the BBC stated, “I told leaders not to come with fancy speeches, but with concrete commitments.”
The UN’s own news report stated some of the commitments made by world leaders and organisations at the summit.
France committed to cease trading with nations not complying with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Germany pledged carbon neutrality by 2050 and China to cut carbon emissions by 12 billion tons per year.
Over 2,000 cities promised to centralise climate in their decision making and in the private sector, 87 major companies (including Ikea) committed to climate targets.
Despite this, some environmentalists remained disappointed with the pace of carbon cutting.
The WMO report specified that the commitments in existence prior to the summit would have to triple to reach the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement with rapid cuts in carbon use necessary to make climate change more manageable.
Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso from the IPCC remained positive, citing the global Climate Strike and creating political pressure as “the best chance for us” against a lack of action.
Image: Huhsunqu via Wikipedia