CLIMATE CHANGE

Now is the time to revive ailing planet

Wanton destruction of planet earth undercuts its capacity to support the human enterprise.

In Summary
  • We are on a dangerous path of inexorable ecological decline, with severe consequences for human health, nutrition and climate security.
  • Global warming is on a perilous course.
Heat waves will become increasingly prevalent in regions across the globe as warming continues
Heat waves will become increasingly prevalent in regions across the globe as warming continues
Image: FILE

The Living Planet Report published by the World Wildlife Fund reveals a 68 percent decline in wildlife populations on average between 1970 and 2016.

Our planet is unravelling. Global populations of all wildlife – amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles – is in precipitous decline in large part because of environmental degradation, which is also responsible for the emergence of zoonotic pandemics such as Covid-19. The raging fires in the Northwest of the United States are a fierce testament of our broken relationship with nature.

The extractive, exploitative logic of our economic model has precipitated global warming, decimated millions of hectares of forest, grassland and wetlands, polluted lakes and fouled oceans. According to the Living Planet report, we are overusing the planet’s biological endowment by at least 56 percent to satisfy the modern lifestyles: Food, energy, fibre and shelter.

While manufactured capital has doubled, the global stock of natural capital (renewable and non-renewable natural resources, like plants, freshwater, soils and minerals), according to the United Nations Environment Programme has declined by about 40 percent since 1990. The decline of natural capital has catastrophic implications for instance of our capacity to produce food for a burgeoning population, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

As any other living organism, human beings – with all our socioeconomic and political enterprise – are inextricably bound to the planet’s resources: soil, water, vegetation and climate. Wanton destruction of the planet undercuts its capacity to support the human enterprise.

Dealing with the triple security crisis – climate security, health security and ecological security – is both economically smart and morally responsible. We can and must bend the curve and re-launch the planet on the path of sustainability

The Covid-19 pandemic, desert locust, wildfires such as we have witnessed in Australia and the Northwest of the United States of America, increased frequency of extreme weather events – floods, hurricanes, heatwaves – underscore the peril of the Anthropocene.

The events of 2020 – Covid-19, the desert locust, wildfires in the Northwest of the US – must be a cautionary tale. Many, especially right-wing politicians in Australia, Brazil and the United States, have argued that reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and legislating green growth and investing public resources in conservation of biodiversity undercuts prosperity. Nothing could be more moronic.

The global economic cost of Covid-19 will be counted in trillions of dollars and will linger for years as the world crawls out of a painful recession. The cost of rebuilding infrastructure and livelihoods in the US states of California, Oregon and Washington because of wildfires linked to climate change is colossal compared to the cost of climate change action.

We are on a dangerous path of inexorable ecological decline, with severe consequences for human health, nutrition and climate security. Global warming is on a perilous course. In the last six months we have popularised the use of the phrase “bending the curve” with respect to slowing down the rate of coronavirus infections. We must now bend the curve of ecological decline and dangerous global warming.

Dealing with the triple security crisis – climate security, health security and ecological security – is both economically smart and morally responsible. We can and must bend the curve and re-launch the planet on the path of sustainability. Now is the time!