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UN chief gives interview from melting Antarctica on eve of global climate summit

by Ethan Kim
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Climate Crisis

In anticipation of the upcoming global climate summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres embarked on a significant journey to Antarctica, a region of paramount global importance. Here, ice that has remained frozen for millions of years is now thawing, primarily due to human-induced climate change. Guterres utilized this expedition as a platform to convey a clear message: immediate action is an absolute imperative.

Guterres emphasized the interconnectedness of Antarctica’s fate with the entire world, asserting, “What transpires in Antarctica does not remain confined to its icy expanse.” Beyond its reflective role in diverting sunlight away from Earth, Antarctica plays a pivotal role in regulating the planet’s climate. Its vast ice sheets and frigid waters drive major ocean currents, which, when disrupted by extensive ice melt, result in rising sea levels, alterations in salinity, and shifts in the habitats of oceanic species.

As the world prepares for the annual Conference of the Parties, known as COP, the objective is to bring nations together to establish and reinforce commitments aimed at combatting climate change. Regrettably, these commitments thus far have fallen far short of what is necessary to curtail the emissions responsible for global warming.

Guterres is presently on an official three-day visit to the southernmost continent, joined by Chilean President Gabriel Boric. Their visit includes an official stop at Chile’s Eduardo Frei Air Force Base on King George Island, where scientists and members of the Chilean military convened with Guterres aboard a vessel to witness glaciers and seabirds, including penguins.

Looking ahead to COP28, which is scheduled to commence in Dubai next week, Guterres views this as an opportune moment for nations to take decisive action, specifically in phasing out fossil fuels within an appropriate timeframe. Such action is essential to prevent global temperatures from surpassing 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a critical threshold that could avert catastrophic climate consequences. However, previous conferences have yet to produce agreements that incorporate this vital phase-out, partly due to the substantial influence wielded by fossil fuel companies and nations.

Guterres highlighted that COP28 also presents nations with the opportunity to commit to expanding renewable energy initiatives and enhancing the efficiency of existing electrical grids and technologies.

Sultan al-Jaber, the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, serves as the president of this year’s climate talks. Guterres underscored that al-Jaber’s connections to the fossil fuel sector entail a substantial responsibility in urging the industry to redirect its profits toward clean energy investments. He articulated, “This is the moment to utilize those profits rather than further entrenching our reliance on fossil fuels, especially when the oil and gas industry continues to reap substantial profits worldwide.”

In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis is slated to attend the U.N. climate conference, marking the first-ever papal presence at such an event. Guterres expressed optimism that the Pope’s participation will send a powerful moral message to political leaders, emphasizing the moral imperative of prioritizing climate action and undertaking every necessary measure to steer away from the perilous trajectory that humanity currently faces.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Climate Crisis

What is the main message conveyed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his visit to Antarctica?

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Antarctica to emphasize the urgent need for global action to combat climate change. He highlighted that the melting ice in Antarctica has far-reaching consequences and called on nations to act immediately.

What role does Antarctica play in regulating the Earth’s climate?

Antarctica plays a crucial role in regulating the planet’s climate because its ice sheets and cold waters drive major ocean currents. These currents have a significant impact on various aspects of the Earth’s climate, such as temperature, sea levels, salinity, and oceanic habitats.

What is the significance of COP28, and what is UN Chief Antonio Guterres’ stance on it?

COP28 is the annual Conference of the Parties where nations come together to address climate change. Guterres sees COP28 as an opportunity for nations to commit to phasing out fossil fuels within a suitable timeframe to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

How does Guterres view the influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate action?

Guterres recognizes the influence of the fossil fuel industry and emphasizes the responsibility of leaders in this sector to redirect profits toward clean energy investments instead of continuing to rely on fossil fuels.

Why is Pope Francis’s participation in the U.N. climate conference significant?

Pope Francis’s attendance at the U.N. climate conference marks the first-ever papal presence at such an event. His presence is seen as a powerful moral message to political leaders, emphasizing the moral imperative of prioritizing climate action and taking all necessary measures to address the current climate crisis.

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