Climate scientists are sounding the alarm: “the world is heading in the wrong direction” because no major action is being taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions, writes USA Today. According to a new UN report on the state of the climate, the number of climate-related natural disasters occurring has quintupled in the last 50 years. UN Secretary General António Guterres is convinced that humanity’s stubborn unwillingness to get rid of its dependence on fossil fuels is to blame.

The world is “heading in the wrong direction” when it comes to climate change, according to a new UN report released in Geneva on Tuesday. In the document, titled “Unity in Science,” the authors warn that without greater action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the physical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change will become increasingly devastating, writes USA Today. 

“Floods, droughts, heat waves, extreme storms and wildfires are getting worse, with indicators breaking records with alarming frequency. Heat waves in Europe, floods on a colossal scale in Pakistan, prolonged and severe droughts in China, in the Horn of Africa, and in the USA. There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. This is the price of humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, USA Today reported.

The report says the number of natural disasters related to climate change has quintupled in the past 50 years. They claim an average of 115 lives a day, but the situation may worsen thereafter. The concentration of greenhouse gases is also reported to be continuing to rise to record levels. The report’s authors warn that fossil fuel emissions are now exceeding pre-pandemic levels. The last seven years have been the warmest on Earth on record. There is a 93% chance that at least one of the next five years will see record heat waves. Moreover, according to climatologists, the probability that at least one of the next five years, the average annual temperature will temporarily be 1.5 °C above the average for the years 1850-1900 is 48%, writes USA Today.

The report warns that as global warming intensifies, “tipping points” in the climate system cannot be ruled out. Tipping points include, among others, the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic polar ice sheets and the drying up of the Amazon rainforest. The UN report comes on the back of a scientific paper published last week that four climate “tipping points” are likely to be passed if the 1.5°C temperature threshold set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement is exceeded, the author said.

“This year’s Unity in Science report shows that climate impacts are entering uncharted territory of destruction. Yet every year we double that reliance on fossil fuels, even as the symptoms quickly worsen,” Guterres noted, writes USA Today.

Many governments are already grappling with the threats of climate change-related disasters, and the death toll from them has been reported to have fallen in recent years. However, scientists predict that the economic costs of climate disasters will rise sharply. The UN report says that such “loss and damage” could be limited by timely action to prevent further warming and to adapt to the already inevitable temperature increases. Issues of compensation for damage to poor countries caused by emissions from rich countries will play an important role at the upcoming UN climate talks in Egypt this fall, USA Today summarizes.

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