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As the leaders of the world gather at the United Nations Climate Summit COP 27 in Cairo, Egypt this week, the message about this beautiful blue planet that we all call home is grim, leaving us precious little time to reverse course.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres pulled no punches in his opening remarks on Monday as the two-week conference began, telling the more than 100 assembled world leaders that “the global climate fight will be won or lost in this crucial decade – on our watch.”

Catastrophic drought in Africa is causing mass starvation and climate refugees. (Photo/Pixabay)

“Humanity is on a “highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,” warned the UN Chief. “We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing … And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”

Guterres stressed that the world faces a stark choice: the countries of the world need to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which are driving catastrophic climate change. This means that developed countries which are responsible for the majority of the greenhouse gases need to work together with developing countries in “a historic pact” to set the world on a low-carbon path. “Failure,” he said, “would bring climate breakdown and catastrophe.”

Already the pace of greenhouse gas emissions has driven up the global average temperatures by more than one degree Celsius. The resulting shifts in climate are driving historic droughts, massive wildfires, rising sea levels, and record-breaking violent storms around the globe. The Paris Climate Accord commits the signers to limit the global average temperature rise in this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Any higher spells disaster.

Flooding in Germany in 2021. People try to leave their homes so rapidly inundated by rising water that they were trapped. But the climate swung wildly in 2022, leading to a historic drought. Photo courtesy of The Sun.com

“We can sign a climate solidarity pact, or a collective suicide pact,” added Guterres, pointing out that the world has the tools to address the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, to move us toward clean energy and low-carbon technology, but whether it has the will is what is in question. “A window of opportunity remains open, but only a narrow shaft of light remains,” he said.

On Friday morning, U.S. President Joe Biden arrived at the summit, beginning his visit with an address to the assembled world leaders. He apologized for the U.S. withdrawal from the world’s climate accord during the previous Trump administration, telling those assembled that his first act as president was to rejoin the climate accord. He recommitted the U.S. to active involvement in reducing carbon-producing emissions.

Biden reminded the world that the recently passed U.S. Inflation Reduction Act made the largest commitment in the world to date to address the causes of climate change and committed to reducing the U.S. contribution to greenhouse gases.

Wildfire smoke can be equal to smoking a few packs a day. Image of Vancouver, Canada as wildfires rage across the west, by CTV News

Developing countries and those in the third world are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; Low-lying Bangladesh has experienced massive flooding, and islands and coastal areas are being inundated with seawater.

Poor nations across Africa are seeing fertile areas dry up, and seasonal weather patterns and migration patterns change, resulting in famine and climate refugees. Europe, Australia, and the North American continent are seeing historic wildfires.

Species accustomed to lower temperatures are migrating upwards toward high altitudes. In the Arctic, climate change is occurring four times faster than nearest the equator; with polar icecaps melting and permafrost thawing; releasing greenhouse gases that have been frozen away for millennia.

But the backdrop of this conference focused on the growing climate emergency is sobering: the shadow of the war in Ukraine, a worldwide energy and cost of living crisis, and rising global tensions. Convincing the nations of the world to work together right now is a tall order.

The poor countries are bearing the brunt of the actions of the richer nations, and need financial help to make the changes they must do to protect their populations and deal with the climate crisis. Whether or not developed countries meet their part of the bargain, supporting those changes while reducing greenhouse gases is a question that has to be answered. Soon.

The fact is, we are all standing together on the climate cliff. We might consider that what happens in other parts of the world matters not much to this beautiful area of the Central Colorado Rockies. But it matters a great deal. What we all do in the next decade or two will impact our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and the generations beyond them. What will we tell them if we fail to act?