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The way of life that took shape after the second world war is “unsustainable”, President János Áder said on Monday, on the occasion of World Water Day, adding that both individual and global action was needed to prevent the degradation of the natural world. In addition, he hosted IPCC member and CEU professor climate researcher Diána Ürge-Vorsatz in his podcast.

“We’ve polluted our waters, the products we make are losing their quality due to the exhaustion of arable land, and deforestation is depriving us of the opportunity to produce oxygen,” Áder said in an interview with broadcaster Mária Rádió.

“Let’s not go down this path, because we’ll be in big trouble.”

The president said water was crucial for the majority of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals approved in 2015.

He said problems encountered across the globe concerning water had to do with “having too much water, not enough water, or polluted water”.

Áder noted that the European Union has backed several investment projects aimed at the replenishment of the Danube-Tisza Interfluve.

The president warned of the dangers of “causing even the smallest disruption” to the planet’s ecosystem, saying that

“we don’t know what kind of crisis or problems that will create.”

Áder said it was difficult to predict how the global population explosion of the last century, and the resulting increase in water and energy consumption, would impact society and the world economy 30-50 years from now.

The president said the world needed to move past fossil fuels and disposable goods and put more effort into recycling.

On the topic of the Paris climate accord, Áder said the world today was farther away from achieving the agreement’s goals than it was at the time of its signing in late 2015.

“If we keep going down this path, then we won’t even be able to keep global warming below 3 degrees Celsius, let alone 2,” Áder said.

“And we don’t know what sort of economic, social, and ultimately, serious political effects this will have.”

Áder said the G20 countries, which account for 80 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, should sign “a more ambitious” pact, with a view to making it easier to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement. Also, the world’s 100 biggest polluting companies should be made to transition to new technologies in order to remain profitable, he said.

The president said Hungary was one of 21 countries that had managed to increase their economic output while reducing their emissions.

“Since 2000, Hungary’s GDP has increased by about 20 percent, while its greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 20 percent,”

he said. Among Hungary’s climate action goals, Áder said that by 2030, 90 percent of the energy generated in the country would be carbon-free, construction of the two new blocks of its nuclear power plant would be completed, and new buses in the public transport systems of localities with populations over 20,000 would all be electric.

The president noted that Hungary will host the Planet Budapest 2021 sustainability expo and world summit in November.

Áder hosts climate researcher Ürge-Vorsatz in latest environmental podcast

In addition, in his latest environmental Blue Planet podcast, President Áder discussed issues around the IPCC with climate researcher Diána Ürge-Vorsatz, a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who is also a professor of the Central European University.

Áder said the consensus in science that climate change is man-made and the result of the use of fossil fuels was almost complete.

Ürge-Vorsatz said that in last 200 years carbon that had been stored in plants for hundreds of millions of years had been released into the atmosphere by mankind. This, she added, changed the balance central to ensuring a stable climate.

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Global average temperatures have risen by one degree over a few decades, leading to more and more extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and storms, she said.

Much of human civilisation, wealth, and infrastructure are concentrated on the shores of seas and oceans and other waterways that are increasingly exposed to extreme weather events, she added.

Áder said a rise of 1.5-2 metres in the sea level would obliterate Florida.

Ürge-Vorsatz said that whereas humanity has woken up to the dangers, actions to combat climate change needed to be speeded up. The transition away from fossil fuels would not be easy, she said, but if it were done “skillfully” then society and the world would be cleaner, healthier and richer, she added.

Áder argued that various energy production solutions were needed, and

“nuclear energy also has a role.”

“Regrettably, there’s no such thing as a free lunch and there’s no free energy,” he said.

Ürge-Vorsatz also emphasised the importance of energy efficiency. Áder agreed, saying that by boosting energy efficiency, energy consumption could be reduced by 20-30 percent without harming the economy or denting living standards.

Meanwhile, Ürge-Vorsatz noted that the next IPCC report will be published in 2022.

Ürge-Vorsatz also warned of the dangers of harming the living environment. She noted bees are not the only insects to pollinate crops, and flies and male mosquitoes were responsible for three-quarters of cross-fertilization, adding that

“there won’t be any food if we exterminate insects.”

featured image: Áder in his podcast in October; via Noémi Bruzák/MTI