U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres: Code Red for Humanity

The United Nations issues a "Code Red" warning regarding extreme climate change. Heat waves, hurricanes, and other extreme weather that are happening right now, are expected to become more severe as the earth gets warmer.

Forest fires in Turkey
Illustration. Forest fires in Turkey are caused by extreme heat. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

ACTNews, JAKARTA – Global warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control, a U.N. climate panel said in a landmark report Monday, warning the world is already certain to face further climate disruptions for decades, if not centuries, to come.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described the report as a "code red for humanity". "The alarm bells are deafening," he said in a statement. "This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet."

Humans are "unequivocally" to blame, the report from the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said. Rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions could limit some impacts, but others are now locked in. The deadly heat waves, gargantuan hurricanes, and other weather extremes that are already happening will only become more severe.

The kind of heatwave that used to happen only once every 50 years now happens once a decade, and if the world warms another degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), it will happen twice every seven years, the report said.

The report found that once-in-a-decade heavy rain events are now 1.3 times more likely and 6.7% wetter, compared with the 50 years up to 1900 when major human-driven warming started to occur. Previously once-in-a-decade droughts could happen every five or six years.

"The heatwave in Canada, fires in California, floods in Germany, floods in China, droughts in central Brazil make it very, very clear that climate extremes are having a very heavy toll," said Paulo Artaxo, a lead author of the report and an environmental physicist and the University of Sao Paulo. The average global temperature is likely to reach or cross the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming threshold within 20 years.

The world will also likely be 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times- the less stringent Paris goal- with far worse heat waves, droughts, and flood-inducing downpours unless there are deep emission cuts, the report said.

“This report tells us that recent changes in the climate are widespread, rapid, and intensifying, unprecedented in thousands of years,” said IPCC Vice-Chair Ko Barrett, senior climate adviser for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, quoted from AP News.[]