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COP24 opens in Poland with science clear, ambition hazy on climate

The science says time is running short. Reports say nations are woefully behind pace.

It’s against that backdrop that the latest United Nations climate summit opened in Poland this week. The Vatican and Catholic organizations, drawing on papal teachings from John Paul II on through Francis, have joined the wider effort in the conference’s first days and those before it to impress upon world leaders the need for a more rapid response to meet “a challenge of civilization,” as scientists project dangerous warming of the planet just decades away.

The annual United Nations climate change conference, COP24, began Dec. 2 in Katowice, Poland, a historical center of coal mining in a country that leads Europe in coal production. While the fuel source has spurred worldwide growth since the Industrial Revolution, its burning has also emitted heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, one of the greenhouse gases that have spiked global temperatures since the 1880s.

While Katowice is considered Poland’s “greenest” city, early attendees at COP24, which has several coal companies among its sponsors, have noted coal displays in the exhibition center, and reported a thick smog hanging over the southern city.

Hanging, too, is a sense of foreboding if the present pace of response to climate change persists.

“We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said, mincing few words in his opening remarks for the conference.

“It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation. Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” he said.

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