UN climate chief warns humanity has 2 years ‘to save the world’

April 11, 2024
1 min read

The head of the United Nations’ climate agency says humanity only has two years left “to save the world,” and is calling for dramatic changes to curb heat-trapping emissions and financial decisions that prioritize the climate.

In comments Wednesday, U.N. Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said that while he knows the warning may sound melodramatic, action is essential.

“Who exactly has two years to save the world? The answer is every person on this planet,” Stiell said. “More and more people want climate action right across societies and political spectrums, in large part because they are feeling the impacts of the climate crisis in their everyday lives and their household budgets.”

The warning was particularly aimed at G20 nations, which include developed and developing economies like the United States, China and India. Those nations are responsible for 80% of planet-heating emissions, which Stiell asserts should force them into the center of mitigation projects.

Poorer countries cannot foot the bill for enacting climate mitigation strategies. Developing countries, not including China, which considers itself a developing country, face an estimated $2.4 trillion annual cost to meet their climate and development priorities by 2030.

However, not everyone is convinced fear-stoking warnings lead to effective action.

“‘Two years to save the world’ is meaningless rhetoric — at best, it’s likely to be ignored, at worst, it will be counterproductive,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who is also a professor of international affairs.

United States government data reveals that carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere reached unprecedented peaks last year in addition to being the hottest year on record. Concurrently, global carbon dioxide emissions surged by 1.1%.

If emissions continue at their current rate, Stiell said it “will further entrench the gross inequalities between the world’s richest and poorest countries and communities.”

Currently, governments are not close to meeting emission mitigation targets.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

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