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World leaders urged to learn from pandemic in adapting to climate change

World leaders urged to learn from pandemic in adapting to climate change

BARCELONA – The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world what it is like to go through a dangerous emergency of the kind that could occur if climate change accelerates — and offers lessons on how to respond, the head of the U.N. climate science panel said Friday.

Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the health crisis was “a foretaste of what climate change could do to our society, to nature and to our lives.”

“Both climate change and COVID-19 have shown us the risks of an unthinking and rapacious approach to nature and its resources,” he told an event at which scientists stressed the importance of adapting to a warming planet.

Lee said leaders should address both crises by investing in a sustainable and resilient recovery.

But he urged them to consider how a green recovery and growing national pledges to become carbon-neutral by mid-century are compatible with a still-rising trend for climate-heating emissions.

“The next few years will be very challenging,” Lee added, warning worsening extreme weather and rising seas could test the limits of adaptation.

The South Korean economist said it would be easier for humans to cope with climate pressures if global warming were kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, the lowest goal in the 2015 Paris Agreement, rather than the pact’s upper limit of 2C.

“Every half degree of warming matters, every year matters, every choice matters,” he told the event by video link.
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