This has been an unprecedented year for people and planet, writes António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives worldwide. At the same time, the heating of our planet and climate disruption has continued apace. Record heat, ice loss, wildfires, floods and droughts continue to worsen, affecting communities, nations and economies around the world. Furthermore, due to the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the past century, the planet is already locked into future significant heating.
The solution to slowing down the rate of global temperature rise and keeping it below 1.5°C is for nations to dramatically cut emissions, with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. While emissions fell during the peak of the pandemic confinement measures, they have already mostly recovered to within 5 per cent of the same period in 2019 and are likely to increase further. This report stresses that short-term lockdowns are no substitute for the sustained climate action that is needed to enable us to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Never before has it been so clear that we need long term, inclusive, clean transitions to tackle the climate crisis and achieve sustainable development. We must turn the recovery from the pandemic into a real opportunity to build a better future.
In order to do that, governments need consistent and solid science, backed by the strong collaboration of scientific institutions and academia, to underpin policy decisions that can tackle the greatest challenges of our time.
This report by the United Nations and global scientific partner organizations, provides an update one year from the first United in Science report, which was launched to inform the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019.
United in Science 2020 presents a unified assessment of the state of our Earth system, detailing how emissions have evolved in 2020, and providing projections for the critical years ahead. The report further addresses key thematic issues on the front lines of climate change, such as water, oceans and the cryosphere and highlights the vulnerability of land-based, marine and air observing systems which are essential to underpin our understanding of climate science.
We need science, solidarity and solutions to tackle both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. I urge leaders to heed the facts contained in this report, unite behind the science and take urgent climate action to set a path towards a safer, more sustainable future for all.
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