Home Science and technology UN Secretary-General Warns of ‘Climate Hell’ as May Sets Temperature Record

UN Secretary-General Warns of ‘Climate Hell’ as May Sets Temperature Record

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The Secretary-General of the United Nations warned of a “climate hell” on Wednesday, as two new reports indicate that the planet may exceed the previously hoped-for threshold of 1.5°C of warming.

“We are playing Russian roulette with our planet,” Antonio Guterres said in a speech. 

“We need an exit ramp off the highway to climate hell. And the good news is that we have control of the wheel. The battle to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees will be won or lost in the 2020s – under the watch of leaders today.”

Guterres directed his anger at fossil fuel companies, labelling them the “godfathers of climate chaos,” and urged media and tech companies to cease accepting advertising revenue from them.

“It’s time to put an effective price on carbon and tax the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies,” he said.

His grave warning comes as the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a global authority on world temperatures managed by the European Union, reported that May 2024 was the hottest May on record. The average surface air temperature was 15.9°C, which is 0.65°C higher than the 1991-2020 average and 1.52°C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average.

May 2024 marked the 12th consecutive month of breaking temperature records, according to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, and the 11th consecutive month where global temperatures were at or above 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The 1.5°C threshold is the limit of warming that countries pledged not to exceed in the Paris Agreement. However, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stated on Wednesday that there is an 80 per cent chance this threshold will be surpassed in at least one of the next five years.

“What is clear is that the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius is hanging on a thread. It’s not yet dead, but it’s hanging by a thread,” WMO deputy secretary-general Ko Barrett said in a press conference.

Surpassing 1.5°C of warming could trigger “multiple climate tipping points,” according to the UN. These include the disruption of major ocean circulation systems, the sudden thawing of boreal permafrost, and the collapse of tropical coral reef systems.

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