Earth Day to Disaster on Earth

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The global degradation, fragmentation and destruction of ecosystems is accelerating and has serious consequences for flora, fauna and human well-being. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS
  • Opinion by Joseph Chamie (portland, united states
  • Inter Press Service

First, CLIMATE CHANGE is certainly the most worrisome threat to human security. The scientific evidence clearly shows that climate change poses a threat to the well-being of people and the planet.

Global warming is leading to unstable life-threatening changes in the planet’s climate and living conditions. Those catastrophic changes are the result of man-made carbon pollution in the atmosphere, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, the response of world leaders to climate change is largely the Climate Change Shuffle: deny, delay, and then do little. In short, the international community of nations is witnessing the renunciation of leadership by the major countries of the world.

Some have concluded that the world is in the midst of a man-made extinction event. Many of the effects of global warming are undeniable and are now considered simply irreversible.

The ten warmest years on record have been recorded since 2005. In addition, 2020 was the second warmest year on record, with just 0.02 degrees Celsius less than the hottest year in 2016.

The world’s average surface temperature in 2020 over land and ocean was 0.98 degrees Celsius warmer than the 20th-century average of 13.90 degrees Celsius. Also, the 2020 average was 1.19 Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial period 1880-1990 of 13.69 Celsius (Figure 1).

Since the first Earth Day observed on April 22, 1970, world conditions have deteriorated significantly in three critically interconnected global dimensions that predicted a disastrous future for life on planet Earth. Source: Climate.gov.

The goal of limiting global warming to well below the Paris Agreement rise of 2 degrees Celsius, or preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels is seen as a losing battle .

In addition to the lack of global leadership, collaboration and enforceable targets with explicit timelines, world leaders continue to sell to wealthy interests and companies pushing for promised techno solutions.

Second, WORLD POPULATION, which grew at a record pace in the 20th century, continues to grow and has a major impact on all living organisms and natural resources on the planet.

Between 1920 and 2020, the world’s population quadrupled from 1.9 billion to 7.8 billion people. In addition, the human population on Earth has more than doubled since the first Earth Day 52 years ago, from 3.7 billion to nearly 8 billion today, and is expected to increase by 2 billion more by 2070 (Figure 2).

Since the first Earth Day observed on April 22, 1970, world conditions have deteriorated significantly in three critically interconnected global dimensions that predicted a disastrous future for life on planet Earth. Source: United Nations.

Despite planet Earth reaching 8,000,000,000 people, countries continue to resist stabilization and population decline. Many government officials, economic advisers, businesses, mainstream media and others often complain about the slowdown in population and call for more demographic growth, especially through higher birth rates.

In addition, human migration is at record levels and has major implications for countries around the world. The global number of immigrants has peaked at about 281 million, with more than 84 million people displaced and more than 30 million refugees. In addition, millions of men, women and children continue to attempt illegal migration.

Today’s massive human mobility has resulted in the Great Migration Clash. The Clash is a worldwide battle between those who desperately want to leave their country and those who vehemently want to keep others out of their country.

More than a billion people, mostly in poor and violence-ravaged countries, would like to move permanently to another country. At the same time, no fewer than a billion people, mostly in rich developed countries, say fewer immigrants should be allowed in.

Immigration is one of the main concerns of voters in most countries that receive migrants, and many are concerned about the effects of immigration on their society and culture. Most migrant destination countries are turning to border walls, barriers and patrols, repatriating those staying illegally, resisting accepting refugees and denying most asylum applications.

Since the demand for migrants is only a small part of the supply of people who want to migrate, illegal immigration remains a major global challenge. Increased migration, especially illegal migration, is contributing to the rise of right-wing populist and nativist parties.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has also spread among refugees and asylum seekers. Many country policies to combat illegal immigration undermine the established international rights and protections afforded to refugees and asylum seekers.

Third, ENVIRONMENTAL ATTACHMENT is also critically changing conditions for all living organisms across the planet. The global degradation, fragmentation and destruction of ecosystems is accelerating and has serious consequences for flora, fauna and human well-being.

The deteriorating conditions over land, sea and air have been caused by the unsustainable numbers of people and their persistent harmful behaviour. The extraction of oil, gas, coal and water, logging, mining, fishing and the ever-increasing needs and demands of 8,000,000,000 people have devastated large parts of planet Earth.

Environmental degradation includes reduced biodiversity, deforestation, depletion of natural resources, deteriorating ecosystems and pollution. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the planet has experienced a catastrophic decline in global wildlife populations and continues to destroy its natural environment at an unprecedented rate.

For example, over the past five decades, the world has experienced an average 68 percent decline in the number of controlled vertebrate species, i.e. mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. In addition, the decline in the number of controlled vertebrate species over the past half-century has varied significantly by major region, from a low of 24 percent in Europe and Central Asia to a high of 94 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean (Figure 3). .

Since the first Earth Day observed on April 22, 1970, world conditions have deteriorated significantly in three critically interconnected global dimensions that predicted a disastrous future for life on planet Earth. Source: World Wildlife Fund, based on 20,811 populations of 4,392 species (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish).

Biodiversity loss is largely the result of habitat destruction caused by unsustainable agriculture and logging, the continued decline of grasslands, forests and wetlands, and the over-exploitation of fish, mammals and natural resources. In the coming years, human-induced climate change is expected to be the biggest driver of further biodiversity loss.

In addition, environmental degradation coupled with climate change is increasingly driving massive human migration. More and more men, women and children are moving at home and abroad to escape the difficult living conditions. Those changing conditions include prolonged drought, extreme heat, rising sea levels, widespread flooding, extreme wildfires, dying coral reefs, violent storms and weather-induced disasters.

What needs to happen today to tackle climate change, the world’s population and environmental degradation are no secrets, unknowns or recent discoveries.

In recent decades, scientists, environmental organizations, international agencies, intergovernmental panels and many others have repeatedly warned world leaders about climate change, global population and environmental degradation. In addition, they have clearly outlined the immediate steps required to address these critical issues.

In summary, these steps are: (1) adopting energy efficiency and conservation practices and replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables; (2) reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants; (3) protecting and restoring the planet’s ecosystems; (4) shift from consumption of animal products to diets of mainly plant foods; (5) transition from focus on GDP growth to sustainable ecosystems; and (6) the stabilization of the world’s population, and ideally a gradual reduction, within a framework that ensures social integrity.

Unfortunately, based on the current behavior of countries and their expected actions in the future with regard to climate change, world population and environmental degradation, objective observers are increasingly coming to an unavoidable conclusion. It is highly unlikely that we will avoid a disastrous future for life on planet Earth.

Joseph Chamie is a consulting demographer, former director of the United Nations Population Division, and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters.”

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service



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