"It is rare to see so many storms of such strength so early in the season"
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he hoped recent devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean and southern United States would convince climate change skeptics like U.S. President Donald Trump that global warming is a "major threat."
Guterres, who will visit the Caribbean islands of Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica this weekend to see damage from last month's hurricanes Irma and Maria, said the world must be more determined in pushing for "a clean, sustainable energy future."
"I have not yet lost my hope that what is happening will be making those that are still skeptical about climate change to be more and more realizing that this, indeed, is a major threat for the international community at the present moment," he said.
Trump has several times called climate change a hoax and announced in June that the United States would withdraw for a landmark Paris climate deal, which seeks to limit planetary warming by curbing global emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists believe drive global warming.
Trump visited the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on Tuesday to survey the damage from Hurricane Maria. He also visited the southern U.S. states of Texas and Louisiana in September in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Florida after Hurricane Irma.
"It is rare to see so many storms of such strength so early in the season," Guterres told reporters. "Scientific models have long predicted an increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is precisely what is happening – and even sooner than expected."
The secretary-general said innovative financing mechanisms would be crucial in helping countries, such as those in the Caribbean, cope with such significant external shocks.
"I remember when Jordan and Lebanon were impacted by huge refugee inflows. They were finally entitled to receive concessional loans by the World Bank because of the fact that they had these huge external shocks," Guterres said.
"I think we are facing a similar situation," he said.
The United Nations and partners have so far sent to the Caribbean region: 18 tons of food; 3 million water purification tablets; 3,000 water tanks; 2,500 tents; 2,000 mosquito nets and school kits; 500 debit cards for cash assistance.
Guterres said an appeal has been launched for nearly $114 million to cover humanitarian needs, but that the response has been poor.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio)
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