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Home / World News / Can’t overlook climate change in fight against COVID-19, says UN

Can’t overlook climate change in fight against COVID-19, says UN

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that both coronavirus and climate change are very serious problems, but they are very different in nature.

world Updated: Mar 12, 2020 02:58 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres.
Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres.(Reuters)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has cautioned that a temporary fall in global greenhouse gas emissions, if any, due to the coronavirus outbreak should not be overestimated because the magnitude of climate crisis has no comparison with the temporary impact of the pandemic.

“Both coronavirus and climate change are very serious problems… but they are very different in nature. One thing is the disease which we expect to be temporary and its impacts will also be temporary. Climate change has been there for many years and we expect it to remain with us for decades and require constant action. We should not overestimate the fact that emissions have reduced for some months. We will not fight climate change with a virus,” he said at the launch of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) State of Global Climate Report 2019 on Tuesday in New York.

“It is important that all the attention needed to fight the disease does not distract us from the need to fight climate change… change anything in the need to have COP26 [2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference] in Glasgow with the commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. We hope that people will be able to commit to both objectives with the same political will,” Guterres added.

WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said the political uprisings and violence in Syria, Libya, and Egypt are linked to drought and rise in food prices and unemployment. “Climatic factors can lead to such crises globally,” said Taalas. He underlined the WMO report has enough evidence to show that the climate crisis is at its peak and 2020 is the pivotal year to address it.

Australia experienced a prolonged and severe fire season in 2019 that continued into January 2020, the report noted. The report had estimated that a global average surface temperature rise of 1.1 degree C to 1.65 degree C will be recorded in the next 10 years. He added it was due to natural variability breaching the lower threshold of the Paris Agreement which is warming of 1.5 degree C.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degree C had concluded that human-induced warming reached approximately 1 degree C above pre-industrial levels in 2017 and is increasing at 0.2 degree C per decade. The 2019 Arctic winter maximum daily sea ice extent was the 7th lowest maximum on record. According to data from the World Glacier Monitoring Service based on a subset of glaciers, 2018-2019 was the 32nd consecutive year of negative mass balance or receding trend.

The WMO report highlights that 2019 saw some of the most deadly heatwaves. Among the most significant were two heatwaves in Europe in late June and late July. Extreme heat also affected India in the pre-monsoon period in May and early June.

“The WMO report corresponds with the changes in climate observed over India. I will focus on floods, which is among the deadliest and have been on a rise over India. Although we are in the dry season, once the monsoon starts, we should be ready for the floods. In India we are seeing a threefold rise in heavy rainfall events. A parliament report shows that during 2017–2018, we lost 3,868 human lives and suffered an economic loss of ~122,131 crore (damage to crops and public utilities alone) in India. That is a whopping 16 billion USD, which is probably a quarter (25%) of the global economic loss due to floods,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, senior scientist at Climate Research Lab at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

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