Mar 21, 2022 - Energy & Environment

UN chief warns Russia's war in Ukraine could set back climate goals

A cooling tower at a nuclear power plant in Germany.
Steam rises from the cooling tower of the Isar 2 nuclear power plant in Germany on March 3. Photo: Armin Weigel via Getty Images

In a major speech Monday morning, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine could set back the climate agenda and spark a global food crisis.

Driving the news: Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, and food prices are rising around the world as supplies are cut off.

What they're saying: "As major economies pursue an 'all-of-the-above' strategy to replace Russian fossil fuels, short-term measures might create long-term fossil fuel dependence and close the window to 1.5 degrees," Guterres said.

  • "Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use." 
  • "This is madness,” he said.

By the numbers: The planet has already warmed by about 1.1°C above preindustrial levels, and the latest research shows the 1.5°C threshold could be breached between 2030-2035, based on emissions trends.

The bottom line: The science is clear and so is the math, Guterres said. "We are sleepwalking to climate catastrophe."

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