UN warns of ‘uncharted territories of destruction’

Boys, victims of the flood, reach out for food from a relief worker, following rains and floods during the monsoon season in Nowshera, Pakistan August 30, 2022.

Fayaz Aziz | Reuters

The United Nations is warning that the impacts of global climate change are entering “uncharted territories of destruction” as countries fail to set adequate targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said climate-related disasters have increased fivefold over the past five decades and are costing $200 million a day.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cited this year’s floods in Pakistan, heat waves in Europe and record drought conditions in parts of the U.S. and China as failures to combat climate change and curb fossil fuel production.

“There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction,” Guterres said in a statement. “This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territories of destruction … . Yet each year we double-down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse.”

The report, citing data collected by several U.N. agencies and partners, said global climate-mitigation pledges are insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement as concentrations of greenhouse gases continue to reach new highs.

Last year, nearly 200 nations came together at the U.N. global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, to unveil new pledges on methane gas pollution, deforestation and coal financing, among other things. But today’s report said that global climate pledges for 2030 must be four times higher to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and seven times higher to get on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Scientists said there’s a 48% chance that the global temperature rise compared to preindustrial times will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next five years. And there’s a 93% percent chance that one year in the next five will experience record heat.

The report comes after a study published last week in the journal Science warned that a failure to mitigate global warming to the targets set by international accords will likely set off a slew of tipping points when changes in a major portion of the climate become irreversible. Tipping points include the loss of ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica and the death of coral reefs.

“It is more important than ever that we scale up action on early warning systems to build resilience to current and future climate risks in vulnerable communities,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

Floods in Pakistan are a 'predictable disaster' that will happen again, says United Nations