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UN Secretary-General Issues Global Warming Warning

The world’s efforts to stop climate change have been “totally inadequate” so far, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres before the start of a two-week international climate conference in Madrid, Spain. The UN chief said the impact of rising temperatures, such as more extreme weather and melting polar ice, is already affecting global populations.

“The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,” Guterres said. “It is in sight and hurtling toward us.”

According to the Associated Press, delegates from almost 200 countries will attend the climate conference to fine-tune the 2015 Paris climate accord, focusing on creating functional international emissions trading systems and compensating poor countries for losses caused by rising sea levels or other effects of climate change.

While many young activists are demonstrating their commitment to addressing climate change, a lack of political will stands in the way of meaningful action, Guterres said.

Since the United Nations’ first diplomatic conference focusing on climate change in 1992, the global carbon dioxide level in the air has risen 15 percent, emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from fossil fuel and industry jumped 65 percent, and the global average temperature rose a fraction over one degree Fahrenheit, according to recent research.

Since January 1993, there have been 212 weather disasters in the United States that cost at least $1 billion each (adjusted for inflation). In total, these events killed more than 10,000 people.

The annual average extent of Arctic sea ice decreased 17 percent, and the global seal level has risen 3.1 inches since 1992, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Climate change has wide-ranging impacts on security as well. As reported in Security Management’s August 2019 edition, responding to catastrophic weather events often diverts personnel, funding, and resources from security functions. The response to Hurricane Irma in 2017 required the activation of approximately 8,000 Florida National Guard troops.

In addition, according to an open letter from a group of senior retired U.S. military and national security leaders, “Around the world, climate change is a ‘threat multiplier,’ making other security threats worse. Its effects are even used by our adversaries as a weapon of war; ISIS used water shortages in Iraq, in part driven by changing climate, to cement their hold on the population during their reign of terror from 2014 to 2017.”