UN Report Reveals "No One is Safe" From Climate Disasters

UN Report Reveals "No One is Safe" From Climate Disasters

The new United in Science 2022 report from the UN and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) details grim news about the future of the planet, including a 48% chance that global temperatures will rise 1.5 degrees C compared with pre-industrial times over the next five years, blasting past the goal set in the Paris Agreement.

WMO: United in Science 2022 | Animation, September 13, 2022.

The report also reviews the consequences of climate change already happening. Findings include weather-related disasters increasing by five times over the past five decades and killing an average of 115 people per day. And that the degree of current warming has already caused five of the nine critical tipping points to surpass their thresholds. To avert the worst-case scenario, it finds emissions reduction pledges with 2030 deadlines need to be seven times higher. But emissions have continued to rise.

“This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction. Yet each year we double-down on this fossil fuel addiction, even as the symptoms get rapidly worse,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message.

UN: United by Science 2022 Launch Address by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, September 24, 2022.

MSNBC: We Must Pay Attention To 'Urgent Crisis’ Of Extreme Heat Events, May 23, 2022.

Why This Matters

To avoid even more extreme heat, drought, storms, flooding, and wildfires, there needs to be more ambitious climate action fast. In the report’s forward, Secretary-General Guterres writes:

Rapidly accelerating climate disruption means that no one is safe from disasters such as floods, droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms, wildfires or sea level rise. The answer lies in urgent climate action, yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction and to compromise the livelihoods of future generations.

The report underlines that the emissions of rich countries are causing disasters in poorer ones and that cities are responsible for up to 70% of human-caused emissions while also being some of the most populated and vulnerable places. Also, the number of people facing acute food insecurity worldwide has risen to 345 million, partly due to climate change. Further, projections show that storms will be intensified by climate change and will likely displace 200 million people over the next 20 years.

A prime example is Pakistan, a nation responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This summer, one-third of the country was underwater after its monsoon season brought eight times the usual amount of rain. The devastating floods displaced 33 million people and left 3.4 million children needing lifesaving support.

The good news is that cutting emissions won’t just help save billions of lives. Given rising gas prices, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy could have economic benefits, saving the world as much as $12 trillion by 2050.

"Even if you're a climate denier, you should be on board with what we're advocating," stated Professor Doyne Farmer from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School to BBC News.

Reuters: World could see 1.5C of warming in next five years, May 10, 2022.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 7, 2021.

NYU Environmental Studies: The Long Game | How Big Oil Delayed Climate Action For Four Decades (with Ben Franta), November 11, 2021.

Time To Start The Action

Inaction plagues governments and corporations alike. As early as 1972, economists and politicians were aware of industrial development’s disastrous effects on the climate. In 1977, a memo reached the desk of President Jimmy Carter, which warned of the imminent threat of global warming and an urgent need to address it by cutting emissions. But such actions stood in fundamental opposition to capitalism, so none were taken.

It’s no surprise then that oil companies are thriving, with ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell making a combined $46 billion in record earnings this quarter. And while the world’s most powerful banks are responsible for putting $4.6 trillion into fossil fuel projects, they’ve also been paying lip service to “going net zero.” Similarly, corporate climate commitments ring hollow in light of a recent quarterly analysis that shows that public companies' current trajectories will still cause 2.9 degrees C of warming by 2100.

According to one climate modeling expert, Myles Allen, fossil fuel giants could put an end to temperature rise within a generation. “This isn’t a new normal -- we’re just on a trend toward ever-hotter temperatures,” he told CNN. Adding, “They know what to do. They know how to stop fossil fuels from causing global warming. But they have to be required to do it.”

Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to BBC World News about the heatwaves, 18 July 2022

BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely' due to climate change, May 18, 2022.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, March 18, 2022.

TED: How to Realistically Decarbonize the Oil and Gas Industry | Bjørn Sverdrup, March 3, 2022.

TED: Fossil fuel companies know how to stop global warming. Why don't they? | Myles Allen, December 4, 2020.