Time is short on climate change, UN head warns

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Governments must speed up talks on a joint response to global warming, which is an “existential challenge for the whole human race”, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has warned.

Mr Ban addressed the opening of the high-level segment of annual UN climate talks in Qatar, involving environment ministers and climate officials from nearly 200 countries.

Pointing to the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in North America and the Caribbean in late October, along with other weather disasters this year, Mr Ban said “abnormal” had become the new normal as the world warmed, presenting a “crisis, a threat to us all, our economies, our security and the well-being of our children”.

Climate scientists say it is difficult to link a single weather event to global warming, but some say the damage caused by Sandy was made worse by the rise of sea level.

“No-one is immune to climate change, rich or poor,” Mr Ban said. “It is an existential challenge for the whole human race.”

He warned: “The pace and scale of action are still not enough.” Mr Ban said countries were “in a race against time” to reach their goal of keeping the temperature rise below a threshold of 2C, compared with pre-industrial times.

Climate changes observed include melting Arctic ice and permafrost, rising sea levels and acid content of oceans, and shifting rainfall patterns with impacts on floods and droughts.

Scientists say low-lying Pacific island states are losing shoreline to rising seas.

Mr Ban noted that time was running out for governments to act, citing reports showing rising emissions of greenhouse gases, which most scientists say are causing the warming trend. A small minority of climate scientists still reject that.

“Let us avoid all the scepticism. Let us prove wrong all these doubts on climate change,” Mr Ban said.