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Will climate emergency jolt us out of stupor?

OP Rana / CHINA DAILY No Comments Share:
Photo taken on May 4, 2019 shows the Port of Mongla during a cyclonic tidal surge in Bagerhat District, Bangladesh. (Xinhua/Stringer)

Profoundly troubling signs from human activities”, including but not limited to growing livestock populations, global tree cover loss and higher carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. These are the main causes of global warming and, possibly, the resulting weird weather patterns such as increasingly hot summers, widespread wildfires, rising numbers of cyclones, incessant rains and floods, extremely cold winters and high incidences of droughts and desertification.

Climate change is a reality, despite some sceptics’ claim to the contrary. And living in denial is not going to help any living creature.

In fact, this denial and the resultant business as usual have intensified climate change. The celebration, albeit muted, over the unprecedented pace of melting ice in the Arctic (and the Antarctic) in the hope of cashing in on the opening up of new sea and therefore trade routes and exploiting the natural resources, especially oil and gas, in the region points to a disturbing trend.

And it is this indifference toward the deteriorating climate and natural landscape that is pushing humanity towards the brink of disaster.

Now, more than 11,000 scientists have warned that humanity faces “untold suffering” if it refuses to combat the “climate emergency”. On Nov 5, the scientists from across the world, in a declaration in the journal BioScience, warned that an “immense increase of scale in endeavours to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering”.

They also said that 40 years ago. Scientists from 50 countries at the first World Climate Change Conference had “agreed that alarming trends… made it urgently necessary to act”. And yet “with few exceptions we have generally conducted business as usual”, pushing the Earth towards disaster.

Increasing human appetites and activities, originally in the developed world but now on a wider global scale, rising populations, burning fossil fuels for energy, forest loss, intensive agriculture and growing livestock populations have been identified as the main drivers of climate change. And instead of checking these trends, we have turned a blind eye to by far the most serious problem humankind faces thanks to our pursuit of more money and power.

The paper authored by scientists from the Australia’s University of Sydney, Oregon State University in the US, South Africa’s University of Cape Town, and Tufts University, in Massachusetts in the US, and signed by more than 11,000 of their peers under the headline, “World Scientists Warning of a Climate Emergency”, cautions that the natural environment must be preserved, with forests playing a key role as carbon sinks.

On the economy, the paper notes, the human race faces a radical choice between continued high-consumption growth, which the world has been obsessed with for long, and “improving human wellbeing by prioritising basic needs and reducing inequality”.

Discussing the problem of population increase, currently at 80 million people a year, the paper says the increase should be stabilised as soon as possible and then reduced. For that, of course, it is necessary to spread education, alleviate poverty and reduce inequality. China’s experience can play a pivotal role in this endeavour.

But such warnings are not new. Climate scientists and environmental activists have been warning about the imminent catastrophe if we do not heed the call of the Earth and mend our ways. But to little or no effect.

The severity of the challenge facing humanity can be gauged from what 2016 Nobel Peace Prize and former Colombian president said at the World Green Economy Summit in Dubai in late October: “The threat from a nuclear war remains… but we have something worse, which is a certainty. That is climate change… If we don’t act, we will perish. We must act for survival.”

The scientists said that to combat climate change, we need “major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems”. They have focused on six key objectives: energy sector reform, reduction of short-lived pollutants, ecosystem restoration, optimising of food systems, building carbon-free economies and stabilising human populations.

The paper says the scientists are hopeful for a change because they are “encouraged by a recent surge of concern” and because governmental bodies “are making climate emergency declarations. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change and many countries, states and provinces, cities and businesses are responding.”

They hope these “vital signs” would be used by policymakers, the private sector and public to “understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress and realign priorities for alleviating climate change.”

They may be right on some indicators but,  by hoping that the private sector would help alleviate the climate crisis, they are at best being naïve and, at worst reflecting their helplessness. Perhaps the world could learn a thing or two from China when it comes to the importance of government contribution in the fight against climate change. After all, China has made combating climate change a top priority.

It is time we understood that the private sector is part of the problem, not the solution, simply because it cannot cease to be driven by the greed of profit. And wherever there is profit to make, the Earth could go to…? CHINA DAILY

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