'If You Guys Don't Get Your Act Together, We're Going to Cook'

UN climate report card emphasizes the need for fast and transformative changes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 8, 2023 2:33 PM CDT
'If You Guys Don't Get Your Act Together, We're Going to Cook'
Steam billows from the Duvha Power Station, a coal-fired power plant, in Mpumalanga, South Africa, Monday, June 19, 2023.   (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

With the world far off track on its 2015 pledge to curb global warming, a new United Nations report central to upcoming climate negotiations details how quickly and deeply energy and financial systems must change to get back on a safer path. "The window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all is rapidly closing," Friday's report warned, per the AP. The globe has to cut its emissions of heat-trapping gases by 43% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, and 60% by 2035, the report said. To get there, "the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels is required," said the report, using a phrase international climate negotiators have shied away from before. It also said phasing out the internal combustion engine would be a huge help.

And the way money flows—such as investments, subsidies, loans, grants, and payments for people and places hurt by warming's extreme weather—also has to change, the report recommended. It said countries need to stop $450 billion in annual subsidies for coal, oil, and natural gas. "Halting and reversing deforestation" and adopting better crop-growing practices are critical to fighting climate change, the report said. It noted that about 95% of deforestation is in the tropics, but global consumers drive the tree loss. "We must urgently disrupt business as usual and unite like never before to move from ambition to action and from rhetoric to real results," upcoming international climate negotiations president Sultan Al Jaber said in a statement.

The report, called the "global stocktake" on climate-fighting efforts, put such an emphasis on change that it used variations of the word "transform" more than 50 times in 47 pages. This comes as leaders of the top 20 economies, responsible for 80% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, meet in India. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told them to act quickly on warming because "the climate crisis is worsening dramatically." In 2015, as part of the landmark Paris Agreement , the countries of the world agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) or at least 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. It's already warmed about 1.1 degrees (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the mid-1800s.

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Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is another window of opportunity that is rapidly closing, the report said. Earlier this year, the World Meteorological Organization said there's a two-out-of-three chance that in the next five years, Earth will exceed that threshold for a year. The report "feels like a final warning," said Climate Analytics CEO Bill Hare, a climate scientist. "'If you guys don't get your act together, we're going to cook.'" The world just baked through the hottest summer ever recorded, and ocean temperatures keep smashing records.

(More climate change stories.)

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