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UN Weather Organization: Climate Change May Pose Bigger Danger Than COVID

FILE - Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, is pictured at the U.N. Office in Geneva, Oct. 24, 2016.

The World Meteorological Organization is warning that if the planet keeps warming at its current pace, the average global temperature could increase by 1.5 degrees C in the next 10 years. This rise would worsen extreme weather events, and many of the dangerous effects of climate change might become irreversible, it said.

WMO reported Wednesday that the national lockdowns of transportation, industry and energy production because of the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a 6 percent drop of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

However, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said this good news would be short-lived. He said the startup of industry might even trigger a boost in emissions. He said the pandemic also was making it more difficult to monitor and manage weather and other hazards.

“This current COVID crisis has led to the decrease in some measurements," he said. For example, "airline companies have been carrying out measurements. Since we have very few flights nowadays, we have less measurements from the aircraft, which is having a negative impact on the quality of the forecasts.”

While the world is in the throes of tackling two big issues at the same time, Taalas said, the magnitude of problems associated with climate change is much greater than that of COVID. He said health and economic problems resulting from the pandemic were devastating but noted they would last only a few years.

“If we are unable to mitigate climate change, we will see persistent health problems, especially hunger and the ability to feed the growing population of the world, and there will be also more massive impact on economies,” he said.

Taalas said the world needs to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19. He said people everywhere need to act together in the interests of the health and welfare of humanity, for the sake of this and future generations.