Shutterstock

U.N. secretary general: Climate change is reaching the “point of no return”

Across the world, campaigns like the youth-led Global Climate Strike have given the fight against climate change increased attention, and called on the world's governments to take meaningful action in order to slow its progress. On Monday, representatives from nearly 200 countries gathered for COP25 in Madrid to tackle global warming. There, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned attendees of the "point of no return".

You may be familiar with COP25 from following climate activist Greta Thunberg's journey there. The meeting itself arose out of the Paris Climate Accord. In 2015, nearly 200 countries agreed to address climate change, including pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Essentially, COP — or, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change — makes sure that this agreement is actually being followed through. This is the group's 25th meeting, hence COP25.

Before the meeting officially kicked off, Guterres touched on the summit's urgency. According to NBC News, Guterres warned on Sunday that the “point of no return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and hurtling toward us.”

"The human species has been at war with the planet. Now the planet is fighting back," Guterres tweeted that same day. "Climate change has escalated into a global climate emergency."

Guterres' comments may seem like hyperbole, but increasing amounts of research are pointing to climate change's detrimental impacts. In fact, scientists are now warning that we may have entered into a "state of planetary emergency."

This conclusion is further supported by a U.N. report last month that found greenhouse gas levels hit a new high. And, it doesn't seem that the cuts for emissions outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement are enough.

"There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. We need to increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind," WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas told The Guardian.

Although the Trump administration announced the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in November, a delegation still attended COP25. The withdrawal isn't complete until Nov. 2020 per the agreement's terms so that means things could change with the 2020 election.

In response to Trump's decision, Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg said they would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. This is important because the United States is responsible for a lot of the world's pollution. If there's any real progress to be made, the United States has to be willing to work alongside other countries and implement change.