What just happened? An unwelcome record was set last Thursday when global surface air temperatures briefly rose by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The average global temperatures for the start of the month were the highest ever recorded, leading the head of the United Nations to publicly attack fossil fuel companies, calling their products "incompatible with human survival."
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that countries must phase out the burning of coal, oil, and gas. He added that the current policies would lead to average temperatures of 2.8 degrees above pre-industrial times by the end of the century, nearly double the UN's goal of a 1.5-degree rise.
"That spells catastrophe. Yet the collective response remains pitiful. We are hurtling towards disaster, eyes wide open, with far too many willing it all on wishful thinking, unproven technologies and silver bullet solutions. It's time to wake up and step up," said the Secretary-General.
Guterres went on to accuse fossil fuel companies of attempting to "knee-cap" progress on battling climate change.
"Last year, the oil and gas industry reaped a record $4 trillion windfall in net income," Guterres said, following a meeting with civil society groups (via AP). "Yet for every dollar it spends on oil and gas drilling and exploration, only 4 cents went to clean energy and carbon capture – combined."
"Trading the future for thirty pieces of silver is immoral," he added.
Guterres said the industry needs to put forward a credible plan for moving to clean energy and "away from a product incompatible with human survival." The biggest step would be investing fossil fuel companies' massive profits into renewable energy. He also called on financial institutions to stop financing fossil fuel projects and encouraged those who already have to continue doing the right thing.
"Countries are far off-track in meeting climate promises and commitments. I see a lack of ambition. A lack of trust. A lack of support. A lack of cooperation. And an abundance of problems around clarity and credibility."
One proposal that has been put forward by the fossil fuel companies in recent times is for them to continue removing oil and gas from the Earth if they can remove the greenhouse gases from the process. But experts say this plan would be too complicated and too costly.
"The problem is not simply fossil fuel emissions," Guterres said. "It's fossil fuels – period."
Rising global temperatures have seen more proposals put forward this year for addressing climate change. In January, researchers suggested creating a shield around the Earth by blasting dust mined from the moon into space using a rail gun. This could dim the sun by as much as 2%, or around six days of sunlight per year, thereby lowering the Earth's temperature.