United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting of world leaders and corporate executives Wednesday that the commitment to limiting a global temperature rise is “nearly going up in smoke” as the planet hurtles toward climate disaster.
“We are flirting with climate disaster. … The commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is nearly going up in smoke. Without further action, we are headed to a 2.8 degree increase and the consequences, as we all know, would be devastating,” Guterres said to the audience of elites at the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
“Several parts of our planet would be uninhabitable. And for many, it will mean a death sentence,” he said.
The secretary-general has been outspoken about the dangerous climate crisis and the need for urgent action to try to curtail the most extreme effects of the expected devastation.
“This is not a surprise. The science has been clear for decades, and I’m not talking only about U.N. scientists. … We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the ‘70s that their core product was breaking our planet,” Guterres said. “Some in Big Oil peddled the big lie.”
The U.N. chief warned of greenwashing in countries’ and companies’ pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and urged the Davos crowd to make and adhere to “credible and transparent” strategies to achieve net-zero emissions.
“Today, fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production knowing full well that this business model is inconsistent with human survival. Now, this insanity belongs in science fiction, yet we know the ecosystem meltdown is cold, hard scientific facts.”
The climate crisis would be difficult for the global community to address even in a time of widespread peace and prosperity, Guterres said, but the world faces a slate of interconnected issues that make action more difficult — though no less pressing.
Guterres said the global community is staring down the eye of a “Category 5 hurricane” and “perfect storm” of issues ranging from the global economic crisis to the war in Ukraine to the East-West divide splitting the U.S. and China.
“Dear friends, all these challenges are interlinked. And they are piling up like cars in a chain reaction crash,” the U.N. chief said.
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