The United Nations says climate change is hindering global growth and prosperity

ClimateWire | Climate change is undermining efforts to address hunger, health and other sustainable development goals, including the transition to clean energy, a United Nations report said Thursday.

The “United in Science” report, prepared by the World Meteorological Organization with contributions from 18 partner agencies, is issued annually before the United Nations General Assembly session in New York. It provides an overview of the latest climate science, and this year highlights the negative impact that rising temperatures are having on almost all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

It shows that emissions from burning fossil fuels rose by 1 per cent globally last year, despite all emissions needing to fall by more than 40 per cent by 2030 to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is the most ambitious end of the Paris Agreement’s goal, and scientists say every part of the higher order will see massive and increasingly irreversible damage.

Achieving these temperature targets will require “broad, rapid and systematic transformations,” the report said. It is estimated that current policies put the world on track to warm by 2.8 degrees Celsius this century.

“Record temperatures are scorching the land and heating the sea, as extreme weather wreaks havoc around the world,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in the report’s introduction. He added that efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 were “unfortunately off track.”

The 17 Goals are the United Nations’ blueprint for global prosperity. They cover everything from clean water and sanitation to education to gender equality to climate action. But only 15% of them are on the right track, as the global economic downturn puts them out of reach, according to a UN report.

It warned that extreme weather events could disrupt global food supplies, helping to keep nearly 670 million people in the grip of hunger this decade. Heatwaves and other climate-induced impacts are expected to lead to more disease and premature deaths, while warming oceans further compromise the food systems and resources that many communities rely on for protection and sustenance.

Climate change is also stressing energy infrastructure and making supply and demand less predictable. For example, heat waves can increase the need for air conditioning, stressing fragile grids and complicating the shift to greener systems.

The report found that in the 50 years between 1970 and 2021, extreme weather events caused the deaths of more than two million people and led to economic losses of $4.3 trillion, 60 percent of which occurred in developing countries.

“The impacts of these extreme events lead to loss of lives and livelihoods, exacerbate poverty and inequality, amplify food and water insecurity, lead to economic instability and, ultimately, undermine sustainable development,” the report stated.

Thursday’s report also highlighted the role that weather-related science and technology play in achieving development goals. It found that improving data collection and weather forecasting could help boost food production or protect energy systems. Impact-based forecasting and more robust early warning systems – one of the Secretary-General’s key initiatives – could help limit the damage from climate-fueled disasters.

But more investment is needed to scale up these technologies. The report said that only half of the countries reported the presence of early warning systems.

A separate report published on Wednesday identified ways in which governments can address both development and climate change together, largely through increased cooperation and investment.

“The large body of existing evidence confirms that the Paris goals and (the Sustainable Development Goals) are mutually reinforcing and one cannot be achieved without the other,” she said.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environmental professionals.

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