With the end of the year approaching, the 2015-2019 period is set to be the warmest five-year period ever recorded on earth, according to a new report by the United Nations.
And a recent study, presented at the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday, found that climate change is accelerating rather than slowing down.
The earth’s temperature “is currently estimated to be 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than 2011-2015,” the report establishes, according to data from the World Meteorological Organization. The report also found that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use continue to grow by more than 1% annually, and grew by 2% in 2018, reaching a new high.
This five-year period has been characterized by growing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, rising sea levels, a decrease of sea ice, intense heat waves and wildfires, more frequent tropical cyclones, and increasing food insecurity.
Millions of people around the world — from Kampala, Uganda, to Paris, France — took to the streets in a climate strike ahead of this week’s UN Climate Action Summit in New York City. The protests were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg who skipped school to demonstrate outside Sweden’s parliament for political action on climate change. Her actions have inspired other students to organize strikes throughout the year, and helped inspire a global movement urging action on climate.
The report indicates that in order to meet the goals laid out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, countries must triple their current targets to reduce harmful emissions.
In his remarks to the Youth Climate Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also stressed the urgent need to address climate change.
“Things are getting worse. The worst forecasts that were made are being proven wrong, not because they were too dramatic, but because they were not [dramatic] enough in relation to the reality,” he said on Saturday.
Guterres acknowledged the rise in climate activism, particularly amongst youth, but said that climate change is “running faster” than humans.
“We still have subsidies to fossil fuels, we still have coal plants being built … We are still losing the race,” he said.
He added that taking action on climate change does not mean taking an economic hit, as some critics have argued. Instead, he said that by combining climate action with the Sustainable Development Goals, it is possible to innovatively create a win-win situation by tackling climate change and ending poverty together.