UN chief: Antarctica is crying out for action

Chile's President Gabriel Boric and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visit part of the Chilean Antarctica, November 23, 2023. Chilean Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a warning on Monday about the rapid melting of Antarctic ice, urging global action to combat “climate chaos.”

Speaking at a press conference at UN headquarters after his recent visit to Chile and Antarctica, Guterres expressed deep concern about the alarming rate at which the ice is disappearing, reiterating that Antarctica and Greenland are melting at a pace three times faster than in the early 1990s.

Guterres highlighted the significant reduction in Antarctic Sea ice in September, reaching an all-time low this year, measuring 1.5 million square kilometres smaller than the average for that time of year. He stated that the impacts of Antarctic changes extend globally. Warning of a catastrophic 3-degree Celsius temperature rise by the end of the century if current trends continue, Guterres stressed the need for urgent action.

Guterres called on leaders to break the cycle and implement well-known solutions, as the planet Earth is steadily descending into climate chaos. He urged leaders to take action to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, safeguard communities from climate-related disasters, and transition away from fossil fuels. Guterres outlined the necessity for a global commitment to triple renewable energy, double energy efficiency, and ensure universal access to clean power by 2030.

Guterres stressed the importance of a clear and credible commitment to phasing out fossil fuels within a timeframe aligned with the 1.5-degree limit. He also stressed the need for climate justice, advocating for increased investment in adaptation and addressing loss and damage to protect communities from the impacts of climate extremes.

However, it is unlikely for humans to hit the lower temperature target set by the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement. Although renewable energy use is increasing, humans are still deeply reliant on fossil fuels and are pumping enormous quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere each year.

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