UN Chief:  “The Climate Emergency is the Central Question Facing the World.”

António Guterres comments came on the eve of a new report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, which said that the last five years have been the hottest on record, pushing global temperatures 1.1 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images News / Getty Images

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The Climate Beat will be taking a week off next week to prepare for our Climate Politics joint coverage week, from September 21-28.

As world governments recover from Covid-19 shutdowns, it is essential that stimulus spending combat the climate crisis, United Nations secretary general António Guterres said yesterday in an exclusive interview with Covering Climate Now partners. His comments came on the eve of a new report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, which said that the last five years have been the hottest on record, pushing global temperatures 1.1 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. Among a cascade of alarming findings, the WMO also stated that sea level rise continues to accelerate and now averages 4.8 millimeters a year, a trend that threatens to submerge vast stretches of coastal areas later this century.

So far, Guterres said, too much stimulus spending has gone to reinforce the carbon-centric status quo. “Do not use taxpayer money to subsidize fossil fuels,” Gutteres told Al Roker of NBC News. “I don’t like to see my money as a taxpayer, in my own country [Portugal], being used to melt the water of glaciers, to increase the sea level, or to accelerate the number and the intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean.”

“The climate emergency is the central question facing the world,” Guterres told Vanessa Hauc of Noticias Telemundo. “Currently, we are on track for a temperature rise of 3 degrees C by the end of this century, which would be an utter catastrophe. … We need much more ambition towards reducing emissions.”

We all want to go back to normal, the secretary general told AFP, adding, “But I don’t want to go back to a world where biodiversity is being put into question, to a world where fossil fuels receive more subsidies than renewables. … We need to have a different world, a different normal, and we have an opportunity to do so.”

The interview and our partners’ various stories remain available for all CCNow partners to republish and rebroadcast or to generate their own stories.

Now, here’s your weekly sampling of the latest in climate news, from across the Covering Climate Now collaboration:

  • On the topic of a green stimulus, a joint project from InsideClimate News and The Nation explores how climate-smart Covid-19 stimulus spending could help transform cities and rural areas alike while also saving our collective climate future. One story looks at big cities in the US and abroad, and the other looks at rural areas and counties across the US. In both cases, the message from local leaders is clear: there are big, shovel-ready projects ready to go, if only national governments will get behind them. Both pieces are *available for republication by CCNow partners.
  • Over the long weekend, California and much of the US West endured an “insane” and “unprecedented” heat wave, in the words of CBS News’s Jeff Berardelli. Parts of southern California reached temperatures “never before seen in modern history” in the area—as high as 121 degrees Fahrenheit. Some places east of the Rocky Mountains, meanwhile, just days after seeing 100-degree temperatures, dropped into the teens and twenties, with Denver experiencing its earliest freeze on record and 2 to 6 inches of snow. “All of the extremes that we’re seeing right now is what climate change does,” Berardelli said, “It takes an ordinary situation and it makes it extraordinary.”
  • Also in California, wildfires continue to rage, spurred on by both the heat and dry air—a clear sign of the consequences of climate change, as PBS NewsHour reports. Nearly 15,000 firefighters are battling the blazes, and a state of emergency has been declared for five California counties.
  • In Africa, Sudan has declared a state of emergency after Nile River flooding has killed more than 100 people in the country and displaced upwards of half a million in Khartoum and elsewhere along the river. “This isn’t the first time the Nile has flooded its banks, but those affected say it’s the worst they’ve ever seen,” Al Jazeera reports. Climate change, which experts say has brought a significant increase in rainfall, is unquestionably a factor in the flooding.
  • Central banks tend to fly under journalists’ collective radars, but they’re among the most powerful independent forces in the world and could do a great deal to help curb climate change, writes Kate Mackenzie for Bloomberg Green. Free from the political constraints of governments, the banks could take bold action by favoring green and non-polluting industries. Instead, “by attempting to be ‘neutral,’” Mackenzie says, “they explicitly support the unsustainable status quo.”
  • When Earther’s Brian Kahn wrote about ExxonMobil’s fall from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, it prompted a deluge of hate mail, much of it accusing Kahn of bias. Kahn decided to write back, explaining that he is indeed biased—towards a healthy future for the planet. The responses he got showed surprising open-mindedness to his ideas. “Winning a Green New Deal and a climate future isn’t just about beating enemies or only working with known allies,” Kahn concludes. “It’s about building a coalition and daring to fix what’s broken. And if my one week of email chats is any indication, there are more people ready to join than it might seem.”
  • The fossil fuel industry is in decline, and Canada’s oil giants are taking note. Yet when the press covers the industry, it almost never mentions to audiences that future estimated demands for fossil fuels are contracting, writes Sean Holman for CCNow partner The Tyee, an independent Canadian news site, and Columbia Journalism Review. “The result,” he says, “is a journalistic failure that is contributing to the climate crisis rather than soberly assessing it.” This piece is *available for republication by CCNow partners.

*Partners: When republishing any of the individual stories identified above as available, CCNow outlets are asked to append the CCNow logo, which you can download here, and the following tagline: “This story originally appeared in [insert name of original news outlet, with a link to the outlet’s homepage] and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story.” Further detailed information on CCNow content sharing, including answers to frequently asked questions by our partners, can be found here.