Climate change spells ‘terrifying’ future: UN rights chief

decaying animal

Originally published by France 24 (Mon, Jul 3, 2023)

Climate change threatens to deliver a "truly terrifying" dystopian future of hunger and suffering, the United Nations' human rights chief warned Monday.

Volker Turk slammed world leaders for only thinking of the short term while dealing with the climate crisis.

Turk told a UN Human Rights Council debate on the right to food that extreme weather events were wiping out crops, herds and ecosystems, making it impossible for communities to rebuild and support themselves.

"More than 828 million people faced hunger in 2021. And climate change is projected to place up to 80 million more people at risk of hunger by the middle of this century," said Turk.

"Our environment is burning. It's melting. It's flooding. It's depleting. It's drying. It's dying," he said, evoking a "dystopian future".

"Addressing climate change is a human rights issue... there is still time to act. But that time is now," he said.

The 2015 Paris Agreement saw countries agree to cap global warming at "well below" two degrees Celsius above average levels measured between 1850 and 1900 - and 1.5C if possible. The global mean temperature in 2022 was 1.15C above the 1850-1900 average.

On current policy trends, the planet will be 2.8C warmer by the end of the century, according to the UN's IPCC climate science advisory panel.

"We must not deliver this future of hunger and suffering to our children, and their children. And we don't have to," Volk said.

"We, the generation with the most powerful technological tools in history, have the capacity to change it."

Turk said world leaders "perform the choreography of deciding to act and promising to act and then get stuck in the short term".

He called for an end to "senseless subsidies" of the fossil fuel industry, and said the Dubai COP28 climate summit in November and December needed to be the "decisive game-changer that we so badly need".

Turk urged the world to "shun the green-washers" as well as those who cast doubt on climate science, driven by their own greed.

The Human Rights Council's 53rd session runs until July 14.


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