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‘Wake-up call’: Climate change is accelerating, UN report warns

The past eight years are on track to be the hottest ever recorded, according to a United Nations report, as UN chief Antonio Guterres warns the planet is sending “a distress signal”.

The UN weather and climate body released its annual status of the global climate report on Sunday with another warning that the target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C (2.7F) was “barely within reach”.

Accelerating heat waves, melting glaciers and torrential rains have led to an increase in natural disasters, the World Meteorological Organization said at the opening of the UN’s COP27 climate summit in the resort city of Sharm el-Sharm. Sheikh, on the Red Sea, Egypt.

“As COP27 gets under way, our planet is sending out a distress signal,” said Guterres, who described the report as “a chronicle of climate chaos.”

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Representatives from nearly 200 states are meeting in Egypt to discuss how to keep the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a goal some scientists say is now unattainable.

The Earth has warmed more than 1.1°C since the late 19th century, and about half of that increase has occurred in the past 30 years, the report showed.

This year is on track to be the fifth or sixth warmest on record despite the impact since 2020 of La Niña, a periodic, natural phenomenon in the Pacific that cools the atmosphere.

“All weather indications are negative,” World Meteorological Organization chief Petteri Taalas told Al Jazeera from Sharm el-Sheikh. “We have broken records in the main concentrations of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide [levels].”

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“I think the combination of the facts that we’re bringing to the table and the fact that we’ve started to see the impacts of climate change around the world … are wake-up calls, and that’s why we’re having this conference on climate change. weather,” he said.

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Surface water in the ocean reached record temperatures in 2021 after warming especially fast over the past 20 years. Surface water is responsible for absorbing more than 90 percent of the accumulated heat from human carbon emissions.

Marine heat waves were also on the rise, negatively affecting coral reefs and the 500 million people who depend on them for food and livelihoods.

The report warned that more than 50 percent of the ocean surface will experience at least one marine heat wave in 2022.

Sea level rise has also doubled in the past 30 years as ice sheets and glaciers melt at an accelerating rate. The phenomenon threatens tens of millions of people who live in low-lying coastal areas.

“The messages in this report could hardly be more somber,” said Mike Meredith, lead scientist for the British Antarctic Survey.

In March and April, a heat wave in South Asia was followed by floods in Pakistan, which left a third of the country under water. At least 1,700 people died and eight million were displaced.

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In East Africa, rainfall has been below average in four consecutive rainy seasons, the longest in 40 years, and 2022 is expected to deepen the drought.

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China experienced the longest and most intense heat wave on record and the second driest summer. Similarly, in Europe, repeated episodes of high temperatures caused many deaths.

Talks ‘Loss and damage’

The UN warning came as delegates at the summit agreed to hold discussions on compensating rich nations for poorer ones most likely to be affected by climate change.

“This creates for the first time an institutionally stable space on the formal agenda of the COP and the Paris Agreement to discuss the pressing issue of financing arrangements needed to address existing gaps, responding to loss and damage,” the president said. of COP27, Sameh Shoukry, at the opening. session.

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The poorest nations least responsible for climate-warming emissions but most vulnerable to their impacts are suffering the most and are therefore calling for what have also been called “climate reparations.”

This issue, added to the agenda in Egypt on Sunday, is expected to create tension. At last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, high-income nations blocked a proposal for a loss and damage financing body, instead supporting three years of financing debates.

Discussions on loss and damage now on the COP27 agenda will not involve liability or binding compensation, but are intended to lead to a conclusive decision “by 2024 at the latest,” Shoukry said.

“The inclusion of this agenda reflects a sense of solidarity with the victims of climate disasters,” he said.

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