World leaders feel the heat in upcoming UN climate summit

‘People can only speak if they come with positive steps’ says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

FILE - Jan. 13, 2018 file photo, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talks to the media during a join declaration with the Colombian president, in Bogota, Colombia. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File)

Saying humanity is waging war with the planet, the head of the United Nations isn’t planning to let just any world leader speak about climate change at Monday’s special “action summit.”

Only those with new, specific and bold plans can command the podium and the ever-warming world’s attention, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

So sit down, Brazil. Sit down, Saudi Arabia. Sit down, Poland.

“People can only speak if they come with positive steps. That is kind of a ticket,” Guterres said. “For bad news don’t come.”

As if to underscore the seriousness of the problem, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization released a science report Sunday showing that in the last several years, warming, sea level rise and carbon pollution have all accelerated.

Brazil’s, Poland’s and Saudi Arabia’s proposals for dealing with climate change fell short, so they’re not on Monday’s summit schedule. The United States didn’t even bother, according to a U.N. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The bar isn’t that high: Leaders from 64 nations, the European Union, more than a dozen companies and banks, a few cities and a state will present plans at the secretary-general’s Climate Action Summit.

Guterres wants nations to be carbon-neutral by 2050 — in other words, they will not add more heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the air than are removed by plants and perhaps technology each year. On Sunday, 87 countries around the world pledged to decarbonize in a way consistent with one of the international community’s tightest temperature goals.

There is a sense of urgency, Guterres said, because “climate change is the defining issue of our time.”

“For the first time, there is a serious conflict between people and nature, between people and the planet,” Guterres said.

He wants countries to commit to no new coal power plants after 2020 and reduce carbon pollution by 45% in the next century. The purpose of the summit is to come up with new green proposals a year earlier than the 2020 deadline that is in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

READ MORE: Young protesters in B.C. and beyond demand climate change action

On Sunday, the United Nations announced that it will cut its own carbon pollution 25% in the next six years and 45% by 2030.

World leaders agreed in 2009 to try to keep warming to just 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. Then in 2015 they added a secondary, tougher goal, at the urging of small islands, to keep warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

The new weather agency report showed that the world has warmed already by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). So that means the goals are to limit further warming to 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from now or even 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 degrees Fahrenheit) from now.

Efforts to reduce carbon pollution need to be tripled to keep from hitting the 2-degree Celsius mark and must increase fivefold to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, the World Meteorological Organization report said.

As bad as that sounds, it’s wrong and overly optimistic to use the mid-1880s as the benchmark, said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann. Mann said that many studies, including the WMO’s, are overlooking that the world warmed 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) from human causes between the mid-1700s and the 1880s.

The weather agency said the last five years were the warmest five on record and even 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than the first half of the decade, a significant jump in just a few years.

“There is a growing recognition that climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago,” the 28-page report said.

If the world keeps temperatures to the 1.5-degree Celsius goal instead of the 2-degree one, 420 million fewer people will be exposed to heat waves and 10 million fewer will be vulnerable to sea level rise, NASA climate scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig said Sunday at a U.N. session.

A larger, more international report looking at climate change and oceans and ice will be released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Wednesday.

“This new WMO report highlights the importance of making more progress on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide,” Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald said. “Hopefully this latest U.N. Climate Summit will motivate more action.”

Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press

READ MORE: BC VIEWS — School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Letter: Allen Way rail crossing proposed in 1980

Pitt Meadows mayor at time wanted it at north Bonson.

Maple Ridge group gives back to northern places

Teaching how to grow in isolated First Nations reserves

Maple Ridge school hosts FIRST LEGO competition

Students build and program LEGO MINDSTORMS to find solutions to city landscape designs

Votto, Morneau want Hall of Fame recognition for Larry Walker

Larry Walker’s number will be retired on April 19 at Coors Field

Slideshow: Maple Ridge’s winter wonderland waterways

PHOTOS: Water and wildlife at the Alouette River, Fraser River and Whonnock Lake

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Should winter tires be mandatory in the Lower Mainland?

ICBC dial-a-claims go up as winter storm takes toll

Canada Post driver in hospital after ice smashes windshield at Massey Tunnel

Incident happened on Richmond side of the Massey Tunnel

Abbotsford bank ATM robbery thwarted by woman standing her ground

Police arrest alleged known robber running down South Fraser wearing balaclava

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Fire truck, police car hit in chain of crashes on Hwy. 99

‘People weren’t paying attention,’ says Surrey assistant fire chief

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Most Read