Nigeria floods: Guterres ‘deeply saddened’ by loss of life and rising need
With over 826,000 people affected by heavy flooding affecting most of Nigeria, humanitarian agencies continue to step up efforts to provide life-saving assistance, especially basic medical care, which is essential to prevent disastrous epidemics.
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Disasters: UN report shows climate change causing ‘dramatic rise’ in economic losses
The findings, published by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), also show that people in low- and middle-income countries are seven times more likely to die from natural disasters than those in developed nations.
“This puts a big emphasis on the need to…make sure that we curb greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ricardo Mena, UNISDR chief, in charge of implementing the Sendai Framework.
This puts a big emphasis on the need to…make sure that we curb greenhouse gas emissions – Ricardo Mena, UNISDR chief
Failing to do this, risks letting climate-related hazards get out of control, he told journalists in Geneva, before calling for greater investment in disaster risk-reduction measures, “so that we do not allow for countries to create new risk”.
In terms of the impact of disasters on the global economy between 1998 and 2017, affected countries reported direct losses of $2.908 trillion. That’s more than twice what was lost in the previous two decades.
Illustrating the growing threat from climate change, extreme weather events now account for 77 per cent of total economic losses, $2.245 trillion, the report notes.
This represents a “dramatic rise” of 151 per cent compared with losses reported between 1978 and 1997, which amounted to $895 billion.
Poorer countries most vulnerable, worst-hit
The increased vulnerability of poorer countries to disasters is illustrated by the fact that, in the last 20 years, only one officially high-income territory – the island of Puerto Rico – has featured in a league table of the top 10 economic losses as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).
Last September, devastation in the US-dependency caused by Hurricane Maria contributed to overall losses since 1998, of more than $71 billion; the equivalent of 12.2 per cent of Puerto Rico’s GDP.
Apart from Cuba, which is classified as an upper-middle income country in the 20-year review, the other top 10 worst-hit nations, as a percentage of their output, are all lower-income.
Haiti – where a deadly 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the north-west of the island just four days ago – recorded the highest losses, at 17.5 per cent of GDP.
In terms of fatalities from disasters, the report indicates that more than 747,000 people – 56 per cent of the total – died in the last two decades during major seismic events, a total of 563 earthquakes and related tsunamis.
Overall, however, more than 90 per cent of all disasters in the last 20 years were in fact floods, storms, droughts and other extreme weather events.
Heatwaves are next climate change ‘explosion’
Heatwaves are an increasing global threat for which solutions need to be found in the next five to 10 years, warned report co-author Professor Debarati Guha, from the Institute of Health and Society (IRSS), part of the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL).
“The next one that is going to hit us with an explosion is heatwaves,” she said. “It’s going to be both in poor countries, remember, human beings have a limit, a thermal resistance limit…it is also going to be a huge problem in the wealthier countries.”
“We emphasize the need to reduce existing risk to strengthen the resilience of people and nations. Otherwise the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is going to be a very elusive target”, UNISDR’s Ricardo Mena said.
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Global warming report, an ‘ear-splitting wake-up call’ warns UN chief
The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued the report from Incheon, Republic of Korea, where for the past week, hundreds of scientists and government representatives have been poring over thousands of inputs to paint a picture of what could happen to the planet and its population with global warming of 1.5°C (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Limiting global warming will require “far-reaching and unprecedented changes” to human behaviour, according to the panel. “We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of one of the IPCC Working Groups.
This report by the world’s leading climate scientists is an ear-splitting wake-up call to the world. It confirms that climate change is running faster than we are – and we are running out of time – UN chief Guterres
The landmark Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”
Tweeting shortly after the report was launched, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that it is not impossible to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the report. “But it will require unprecedented and collective climate action in all areas. There is no time to waste.”
In a statement released later in the day, Mr. Guterres said that getting there, would require “urgent and far more ambitious action to cut emissions by half by 2030, and reach net zero emissions by 2050.”
“This will take unprecedented changes in all aspects of society – especially in key sectors such as land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities,” he said, adding that “we need to end deforestation and plant billions of trees; drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels and phase out coal by 2050; ramp up installation of wind and solar power; invest in climate-friendly sustainable agriculture; and consider new technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
“The coming period is critical. We must meet the Paris commitments to bend the emissions curve by 2020
Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said on Monday in Geneva that there was “extreme urgency” needed on the part of Paris Agreement signatories, and “so far the progress hasn’t been good enough” to keep temperature rises below even 2°.
“There will be 420 million people less suffering because of climate change if we would be able to limit the warming to 1.5°C level and we have certain areas in the world which are extremely sensitive,” Mr. Taalas said. “Small island states, (the) Mediterranean region and also sub-Saharan Africa is already suffering and will suffer more in the future.”
It is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the WMO official continued, “but we should change many things how we run our everyday business today”.
Also in Geneva, a UN rights expert warned that failing to do more to address climate change risked “locking in decades” of grave violations.
“Climate change is having – and will have – devastating effects on a wide range of human rights, including rights to life, health, food, housing, and water, as well as the right to a healthy environment,” said David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment.
“The world is already witnessing the impacts of climate change — from hurricanes in America, heat waves in Europe, droughts in Africa to floods in Asia.”
Half a degree is a big deal
The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more.
For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C.
Moreover, coral reefs, already threatened, would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all would be lost with 2°C, according to the report.
“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher, increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.
Limiting warming ‘possible’ but we need to move faster
“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.
With that in mind, the report calls for huge changes in land, energy, industry, buildings, and transportation-use and across cities everywhere. Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and reach “net zero” around 2050.
Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5ºC would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperatures to below 1.5°C by 2100.
But the report warns that “the effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.”
“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Priyardarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, referring to the 17 Goals adopted by UN Member States three years ago to protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
‘Can’t fail’ moment in Katowice
The new report will feed into a process called the ‘Talanoa Dialogue,’ in which parties to the Paris accord will take stock of what has been accomplished over the past three years. The dialogue will be a part of the next UNFCCC conference of States parties, known by the shorthand COP 24, which will meet in Katowice, Poland, this December.
The UN Secretary-General said that the Katowice conference was a “can’t-fail moment.”
“The international community must emerge with critically important implementation guidelines for operationalizing the Paris Agreement,” he said, adding that all countries now needed to “heed the counsel of the world’s top scientists: raise ambition, rapidly strengthen their national climate action plans, and urgently accelerate implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
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