UN Climate Chief Sees ‘Silver Lining’ in Extreme Weather: Raises Issue to 'Highest Political Levels'

March 6, 2014 - 5:33 PM

U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres

U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

(CNSNews.com) – Extreme weather events like the winter freeze over North America and devastating floods in England have a “silver lining” – a reminder that urgently addressing climate change is not a politically partisan issue, in the view of U.N. climate change chief Christiana Figueres.

“There's no doubt that experiencing these weather events, which I call experiential evidence of climate change, does raise the issue to the highest political levels,” Figueres told The Guardian this week.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to have these weather events, but there is a silver lining if you wish, because these weather events, what they remind us is that solving climate change, addressing climate change in a timely way, is not a partisan issue.”

“It’s not like these weather events affect those who are on the left of the political scale or those who are on the right. It doesn’t matter where you are in politics, nationally or internationally – you get the same impact. The longer we wait to have policy that positively affects the trajectory of [greenhouse gas] emissions, the more of these events we’re going to have.”

Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, cited some of the extreme weather events of recent times.

“Who had ever heard of the [polar] vortex in New York, right, before that weird weather? Incredible heat that Australia has suffered, the floods in the U.K – and you name it, it goes on and on and on and on. Frankly, there’s no country that has been exempted from very strange weather over the past, let’s say, one or two years.

“And these very strange, extreme weather events are going to continue both in their frequency and in their severity. It’s not that climate change is going to be here in the future; we are experiencing climate change,” she said.

“We can no longer afford not to take very, very clear action.”

'Sacred job'

With Figueres at the helm, the U.N. climate change agency is pushing for a long-elusive binding and universal agreement on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” blamed for climate change.

A U.N. climate conference is planned for Lima, Peru next December, when activists are hopeful an international agreement draft will be drawn up for approval at the next big gathering, in Paris, France in Nov.-Dec. 2015.

In her interview with the British newspaper Figueres, a Costa Rican appointed by U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in 2010 and reappointed in 2013, said she regarded her work not just as important, but as “sacred.”

“It is something that I love doing because this is the most important challenge that humanity has ever faced,” she said. “So many people say ‘that’s the most difficult job in the world.’ I say it’s the most sacred job in the world. We are holding the responsibility for future generations.”