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Hot planet on a path of 'suicidal emissions'

The U.N. secretary-general prodded nations to act faster and more decisively to combat climate change by altering their "path of suicidal emissions."

BANGKOK (AN) — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres prodded nations to act faster and more decisively to combat climate change by altering their "path of suicidal emissions" from fossil fuel burning that is overheating and killing life on Earth.

After a difficult week of United Nations-led climate talks in Thailand, nations left unresolved how to help poor nations tackle global warming. Guterres said he must "sound the alarm on the global emergency that is climate change" to ensure the planet's survival for future generations.

“The science is beyond doubt. Solutions are staring us in the face. It is time to get off the path of suicidal emissions," said Guterres.

Guterres outlined his goals for next year's climate summit to speed up action in sustainable energy and other crucial areas. He also spoke ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit of government, business and philanthropic leaders scheduled to be held at San Francisco later this week.

"All of us — governments, businesses, consumers — will have to make changes," he said. "More than that, we will have to be the change. This may not be easy at times. But for the sake of today's and future generations, it is the path we must pursue."

Bottom-line: Costs of climate change

Next month, a high-powered international commission will launch to raise money for fighting climate change. The Rotterdam-based commission will led by former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.

Ban called it "a critical step forward to set in motion more vigorous attention to and action around climate adaptation" in the face of more flooding, severe storms, droughts, heatwaves and other climate-affected changes, according to a statement from the Dutch government, a key supporter.

The urgency reflects a series of record high temperatures and extreme weather events including devastating floods in southern India, wildfires in the United States and extreme heatwaves in Japan.

The historic 2015 Paris Agreement pledged countries to take action to stop temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.

Doing so will require a major shift from fossil fuel-burning to renewable energy sources that produce far fewer carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere. Leading scientists and a major U.N. study have indicated this target may already be unattainable.

The six-day international climate talks that ended in Bangkok fell short of finishing the preparations that are needed for nations to agree next December on a set of guidelines about how to implement the Paris accord. Organizers hoped to complete a text that diplomats could adopt three months from now.

A major stumbling block continued to be the divisive issue of money: just who should bear responsibility for helping poor nations cope with the many aspects of an overheating planet, ranging from rising seas to changes in landscapes and species to the advent of more extreme weather.

“In Bangkok, there has been uneven progress on the elements of the climate change regime that countries are working towards,” Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the U.N.  Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, said in a statement. “This underlines the urgent need for continuing work in the coming weeks."

A problem that won't just go away

In June, a leaked draft of a report that the U.N.'s Nobel Prize-winning global warming panel was preparing to issue showed global warming was on track to exceed the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit in the Paris Agreement by around 2040, and averting that scenario will require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the world economy.

The report on how the Earth will change if it warms by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — and exceeds the desired limit that the world agreed on at Paris three years ago — was aimed at “strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty,” the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, said.

Previous reports from the IPCC, which includes 195 member-nations and involves the work of thousands of scientists around the world, found that rising temperatures over the past century, mainly from industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases lead to more extreme weather, rising sea levels, drought and disease and widespread harm to farms, fisheries and forests.

The last four years were the hottest on record and 2010 was the fifth hottest, according to the World Meteorological Organization and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The world hasn’t had a cooler than average year since 1976 or a cooler than normal month since the end of 1985.