Climate crisis: longer lasting and deadly than coronavirus

Climate crisis: longer lasting and deadly than coronavirus

The United Nations warned that the consequences of climate change will be worse than those of Covid-19. Rising temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and food crises, among other effects.

"The coronavirus is a disease that we hope will be temporary, with temporary impacts, but climate change has been there for many years and will continue for many decades, and requires continuous action," said António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations ( UN), when presenting the world climate report, which warned about the continuous increase in temperature, the melting of ice (both in the Arctic and Antarctica), the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the rise in sea level. If climate change continues, the UN warned of serious socioeconomic impacts, health, forced displacement and food crises.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO - United Nations agency) presented the "Declaration on the State of the World Climate 2019", which systematized studies from a score of scientific institutions and reports from national climate organizations. The document warns that the five-year period 2015-2019 comprises the five warmest years in history, confirms that 2019 was the second warmest year in history (with a world average temperature of 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels) and points out that there was a peak in CO2 concentrations (a key gas in global warming).

The WMO assures that the temperature records in Antarctica were accompanied by "episodes of large-scale ice melting, events that will influence the rise in sea level at an ever-increasing rate." And he highlights that the loss of ice in the Arctic is "constant and prolonged". At the same time, and directly related, in 2019 "the average sea level on a world scale reached the highest value for which there is data."

Glaciers are fundamental freshwater reservoirs, threatened in many regions by extractive activities (such as mega-mining in the Andes Mountains). In 2019, the global glacier “mass balance” was negative. The United Nations body warns that the retreat of the glaciers occurred for the 32nd consecutive year and detailed that, since 2010, eight of the ten years have been recorded "with the worst results" in terms of the disappearance of glaciers.

The Portuguese Guterres emphasized that floods, fires and extreme storms "take their deadly price in human lives" and called for action: "We are running out of time to avert the worst impacts of climate change and protect our societies of the inevitable effects that lie ahead ”. He affirmed that it is a long way from meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement (limiting the increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius).

Petteri Taalas, head of the OMM, announced that –as greenhouse gases continue to increase– “it is likely that in the next five years there will be a new annual world temperature record”.

The climate crisis will have a full impact on the health of the population. The United Nations has no doubts: "People's health and healthcare systems pay an ever higher price due to extreme heat conditions." An example was the high temperatures of 2019 in Europe, Australia, India and Japan. It states that health effects include heat-related illness and death; injuries and loss of life associated with violent storms and floods; incidence of diseases transmitted by vectors and by contaminated water; worsening of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases due to air pollution.

The report of the World Meteorological Organization recalls that climate variability is one of the factors that most affect the increase in hunger in the world. He specifies that, after a decade in decline, in 2018 the number of people suffering from hunger began to rise: there are already 820 million. And it highlights that, between 2006 and 2016, agriculture in developing countries accounted for 26 percent of the losses caused by climatic disasters.

An aspect that is often ignored is the forced migration caused by the climate crisis. The UN counted 17.2 million people in 2018 and increased to 22 million in 2019. From cyclones and hurricanes to widespread storms and floods. Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia were some of the affected countries.
Among the extreme phenomena, he mentions major floods in the United States, northern Argentina and Uruguay, with estimated losses of 22,500 million dollars.

The head of the WMO, Petteri Taalas, lamented what happens with the coneravirus pandemic and the thousands of deaths, but warned that the climate crisis "is much worse."

“The virus will have a short-term economic impact, but the losses will be massive if we think about global warming. We are talking about a problem of greater magnitude, with much more serious consequences on people's health and on our societies, ”he warned.

The report has a specific section on the oceans, responsible for absorbing 90 percent of the heat that is trapped on the Earth by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. "The calorific content of the oceans, which is an indicator of this accumulation of heat, reached unprecedented levels in 2019," the United Nations body warned and summarized: "The oceans are warming at a dizzying rate."

By Darío Aranda. Article published on April 6, 2020 in the newspaper Página12

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