World leaders 'visibly' shocked by devastating images at COP27

World leaders were noticeably shocked by a video spotlighting countless natural disasters that occurred in 2022 as a result of climate change.

A koala escaping a burning forest was one of the two Australian extreme weather-related events that were shown at COP27, the United Nations global climate talks in Egypt on Monday (local time).

Despite natural disasters dominating the news throughout 2022, the summit has not attracted the same attention as COP26 did in 2021. Absent from the event are Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

World leaders attending COP27 were shown a video highlighting climate disasters in 2022. Source: UN
World leaders attending COP27 were shown a video highlighting climate disasters in 2022. Source: UN

A live stream of the event shows a number of leaders including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with their heads in their hands. ABC News described the crowd as being "visibly shocked and affected" during the "confronting" screening.

The video featured stories of loss of life and property from global heating, which is occurring because of increased carbon and methane in the atmosphere. It featured 71 disasters in countries including US, Madagascar, Greece, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Canada, Rwanda and Pakistan.

UN Secretary-General evokes AC/DC in COP27 speech

Speaking before UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres began his address to the assembled leaders by unexpectedly appearing to reference the song 'Highway to Hell' by Aussie rock icons AC/DC.

“We are on a 'highway to climate hell' with our foot still on the accelerator,” Antonio Guterres said.

An image of AC/DC in concert in 1978
The UN Secretary-General appeared to reference AC/DC (pictured) in his COP27 speech. Source: Getty (File)

Originally from the same state as AC/DC, the reference to the band wasn’t lost on Greenpeace Australia-Pacific CEO David Ritter.

“As a good Western Australian lad I’m a fan of AC/DC of course but we’re not bound as a species to follow that particular song lyric," he said.

Maybe what we say to world leaders who are taking action is: For those about to rock we salute you,Greenpeace Australia-Pacific CEO David Ritter

Despite the absence of many world leaders, Mr Ritter believes what’s crucial are the actions that come out of the summit.

“We’ve been warned by the scientists in unequivocal terms that we have to act at emergency speed and scale to reduce emissions,” he said. “The fastest way for that to occur is to transition away from coal, oil and gas at emergency speed and scale.”

“Australia has committed to a 43 per cent emissions reduction (by 2030). It is great to have the momentum, but it’s also very clear that it’s insufficient and we have to move faster if Australia is to be on a trajectory that’s consistent with the Paris Climate agreement (of warming below 1.5 degrees).”

Climate change will have devastating impact on the poor

Since COP26, leaders have struggled to make necessary changes to meet a commitment to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. There is growing pressure to negotiate real change. If they fail to do this, most scientists agree the world will face irrevocable changes to the climate, millions will experience life-threatening heat waves, and plant and animal extinctions will occur.

A woman in Somalia with a sick and malnourished baby.
Millions face starvation in Africa due to drought, including those in Somalia (pictured). Source: Getty

Oxfam Australia's climate justice lead Melissa Bungcaras told Yahoo News Australia it will be the poor who are disproportionately affected.

She cites the impact of ongoing drought creating famine across the Horn of Africa as one example, and recent flooding in Pakistan that affected upwards of 33 million people as being two key events that occurred this year. In order to respond to the impact of these disasters both countries and individuals will face increasing debt.

"When it comes to the impact of climate change we often think about the impact on people. And we know that those living in poverty and those who experience inequality are often the hardest and first hit by these disasters," she said.

"As these disasters become more frequent we're likely to see more people slipping further into poverty. We're also likely to see people's resilience drop over time. As climate change impacts increase, both people and countries are struggling to bounce back."

COP27 runs from November 6 to 18 at the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

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