(CNN)UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a searing indictment of humanity's "war" on the environment Wednesday, in a speech on the state of the planet in which he urged everyone to prioritize "making peace with nature."
Humanity is waging a 'suicidal' war on nature, UN chief warns
"We are facing a devastating pandemic, new heights of global heating, new lows of ecological degradation and new setbacks in our work towards global goals for more equitable, inclusive and sustainable development," Guterres said in the address, delivered at Columbia University in New York.
"To put it simply, the state of the planet is broken."
Two authoritative new reports -- one from the World Meteorological Organization and the other from the United Nations Environment Programme -- "spell out how close we are to climate catastrophe," said Guterres.
The UN chief laid out in stark terms the damage already done to the environment and warned that countries risked losing the opportunity afforded by the coronavirus pandemic to reset their priorities on climate change and environmental protections if they do not act now.
"Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back -- and it is already doing so with growing force and fury," he said, as biodiversity collapses, species risk extinction, deserts spread and forests are lost.
"Oceans are overfished -- and choking with plastic waste. The carbon dioxide they absorb is acidifying the seas. Coral reefs are bleached and dying," he said.
"Air and water pollution are killing 9 million people annually -- more than six times the current toll of the pandemic. And with people and livestock encroaching further into animal habitats and disrupting wild spaces, we could see more viruses and other disease-causing agents jump from animals to humans."