Bonn, Germany: Leading scientists and representatives from countries in mountain, downstream and low-lying regions have strongly echoed the UN Secretary-General’s call on Wednesday for G20 countries to rapidly decarbonise and limit global temperatures.

Speaking Thursday at the ongoing climate talks in Bonn, Germany, the warning followed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s Special Address in New York, where he called for “huge cuts in emissions…led by the huge emitters,” namely G20 nations which “produce eighty percent of global emissions.”

Guterres added, “The difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees could be the difference between extinction and survival” for many communities, noting, “Our planet is trying to tell us something. But we don’t seem to be listening.”

In response, the scientists and diplomats from mountain and low-lying regions detailed what Guterres called “the climate road to hell” will mean if global leaders fail to act as the climate emergency requires: emissions from fossil fuels falling by seven or eight percent a year, rather than rising as today.

Dr James Kirkham, Chief Science Advisor to the Ambition on Melting Ice (AMI) High-level Group, a gathering of polar, mountain and low-lying regions, outlined the stark difference in futures for countries from Bangladesh to Belize, stating, “Current global heating has made three meters’ sea level rise from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet inevitable, but if we stick close to 1.5 degrees, we can slow that rise to take place over many centuries.”

“On our current emissions path, three meters may be reached in less than one century, wiping out cities like Dhaka. But even coastlines in advanced economies will not remain untouched,” he noted, showing the difference in future sea level rise for cities in several G20 members.

“Nearly all glaciers in the Alps, Scandinavia, and other mid-latitude regions will disappear if we reach even 2 degrees,” explained Dr. Fabien Maussion, a senior glacier expert at the University of Bristol. “Many will disappear in just the coming few decades, because of the current heat in the system. But if we can stick very close to 1.5 degrees, at least a few will preserve small amount of their ice, vital to some river basins in summer.”

“For the Hindu Kush Himalaya, as the UN Secretary-General so truly stated, 1.5 degrees is not ambition. It is a physical limit for billions dependent on healthy water arising from our snow and glaciers,” said Izabella Koziell, Deputy Director of ICIMOD. “We need to act now, or the billions in Asia dependent on these vital resources will suffer.”

Ambassador Carlos Fuller of Belize declared, “With projections of a five-meter sea level rise, Belize faces existential threats. Belize is also currently grappling with extensive forest fires that have ravaged thousands of acres of nature reserves, farmlands, and homes. This dual threat of rising sea levels and widespread forest fires underscores the urgency of addressing climate change. Clearly, even a 1.5°C increase is proving to be too high.”

“The Secretary-General stated that, ‘the battle for 1.5°C will be won or lost in the 2020s’”, concluded Pam Pearson, Director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative. “And we still can win this battle. With the climate conference hosted this year in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku — a city with 25% or more of its water resources coming from glaciers and snow, yet where the oil industry began — this is the time to stop ignoring reality, use the many solutions available, and transition rapidly off fossil fuels. But we need to act today, not tomorrow.”

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