Student protests seeking action on climate change have been snowballing into a vigorous global movement and world leaders better take a serious note of the burning issue. Blind denial of global warming won’t hold water any longer.
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who protests weekly outside Sweden’s parliament, has successfully ignited a heated debate on the subject that cannot be doused with empty words.
Classrooms in capitals from Bangkok to Berlin, Lagos to London emptied last Friday as organisers of the student strike tried to stage 1,000 demonstrations in as many as 120 countries.
Just on Wednesday, a major report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, cautioned that human activity is damaging the planet so badly, exacerbated by climate change, that it will increasingly put our health at risk.
Unless environmental protections are drastically scaled up, there could be millions of premature deaths by the middle of this century, with pollutants in freshwater systems becoming a major cause of death by 2050. In addition, more chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, will have an adverse effect on male and female fertility, as well as the neurological development of children.
Leaders should heed scientists’ caution that fossil fuel use releases greenhouse gases, which trap heat and lift global temperatures, bringing more floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels.
While nations meeting at the UN environment assembly did announce that they had agreed to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics over the next decade, it is disappointing that the pledge — which only referred to man-made global warming and made no mention of the fossil fuels driving it — fell far short of the steps needed to tackle earth’s burgeoning pollution crisis.
The 2015 Paris climate conference pledge to keep the increase in global average temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (35 F) above pre-industrial levels requires a radical cutback in use of coal and fossil fuels.
Data released recently by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization made it abundantly clear that the past four years were officially the four warmest on record.
The analysis showed that the global average surface temperature in 2018 was approximately 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) baseline — a huge cause for concern.
The pattern indicates trouble. The year 2019 has picked up where 2018 left off, with Australia experiencing its warmest January on record. Intense heat waves are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change.
Sea ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic both marked the second lowest ever observed. There were 14 weather-related disasters costing one billion dollars or more.
Devastating forest fires, droughts, floods and hurricanes are now the norm rather than the exception.
Such climatic catastrophes make it imperative on world nations to intensify efforts to cut down carbon emissions and expedite climate adaptation measures.
The agony of Maldives is a glaring example. The low-lying Maldives is among countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and coral reef deterioration.
The planet is heating up and a cool attitude could prove disastrous. Time is definitely running out to limit global warming to 1.5˚C. Climate change adaptation needs to be a high priority for the global community.