Are we heading towards extinction?

Due to the increasingly visible consequences of climate change, governments are finding it difficult to downplay the warnings of scientists. Among the consequences of climate change are record high temperatures around the world as well as droughts, floods, forest fires, storms, hurricanes and also a severe impact on biodiversity. Wildfires have swept through regions in France, Spain, Portugal and the United States. In fact, Europe, including the UK, is going through its fourth heatwave this summer. We have also seen how recent floods in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have led to the massive destruction of housing, roads and transportation routes, as well as agriculture.

These developments have pulled hundreds of thousands of people below the poverty line and created a scenario in which many climate scientists observe that we are mindlessly working together to ensure the extinction of not only the human species, but many other species as well. currently threatened by human activities.

In this context, it should be noted that the annual global biodiversity summit, COP15, has been postponed by two months to December and will now be hosted in Canada instead of China, according to environmental charities. This is due to fears that the Chinese government may postpone the event for a fourth time in 2023 due to Covid-19. It may be recalled that the conference was originally scheduled to be held in 2020. This summit has potential significance as it should give governments a chance to come up with a long-term plan to reverse the threat to life on Earth. Many might wonder why biodiversity is considered so important. This is so because biodiversity is the variety of all life on Earth – animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms like bacteria. Animals and plants are particularly important because they provide humans with what they need to survive, including fresh water, food and medicine. Plants are also very important in improving our physical environment by cleaning the air we breathe, limiting the rise in temperatures and providing protection against climate change. Mangroves and coral reefs can also act as a barrier to erosion due to sea level rise.

Climate analysts and ecologists have made some interesting observations in this regard. According to them, it is normal for species to evolve and disappear over time – 98% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. Concern has however arisen that species extinction is now happening much faster than expected. In this respect, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has kept a “red list” of endangered species since 1964. Apparently over 142,000 species have been assessed and now 29% are considered threatened, meaning they are of very high importance. high risk of extinction.

Biodiversity loss is happening all over the world, but the Natural History Museum in London found that Malta, the UK, Brazil and Australia have seen the biggest changes due to pollution, industrialization rapid and overuse of water.

Due to the increasingly visible consequences of climate change, governments are finding it difficult to downplay the warnings of scientists. However, this emerging dimension has led many governments and civil society representatives to stress the need for the world to agree on a long-term plan of action which will be known as the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework. .

Observers said the main objective of such an initiative will be to slow the rate of biodiversity loss by 2030 and ensure that by 2050 biodiversity is “valued, conserved and restored to a way that will bring essential benefits for everyone”. The post-2020 framework discussed in this regard has four objectives: increased conservation, resources used as sustainably as possible, more equitable sharing of natural resources and financial support increased for the protection of biodiversity.

He also wants greater use of trees and plants to absorb carbon dioxide and balance greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve these goals, governments and private organizations pledge to give at least US$200 billion a year by 2030, 5% of which to developing countries. This small figure in terms of potential aid to developing countries has, however, rightly led to justified disagreements, particularly in certain affected areas of Africa, Latin America and also in certain areas of Asia.

Joseph Chamie drew attention to the growth of the world’s population but also pointed out that this dynamic has slowed down from its peaks in the second half of the 20th century. It continues to increase, currently at around 70 million per year and is expected to reach 9 billion by 2037 and 10 billion by 2058. In this context, attention has also been drawn to the fact that if CO2 emissions from fossil fuels continue to rise as those of the past decades, the annual level of the same in 2058, when the world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion, would be more than 50% higher than it is today’ today, or about 60 billion tons.

Warnings that rising carbon emissions are dangerously warming the Earth have been made clear to governments. In particular, scientists have pointed out that the burning of fossil fuels is already warming the planet faster than anything the world has seen in 2,000 years.

In 2020, five countries produced around 60% of annual global CO2 emissions. China was in first place with almost a third of annual CO2 emissions. The list also includes the United States with 14%, India with 7% and Russia with 5% and Japan with 3%. It can also be noted that China has the highest number of coal-fired power plants of any country in 2022.

Likely consequences of such a course of action include warmer temperatures with increased frequency, intensity and duration, impacting oceans, sea levels, coral reefs, fish levels, glaciers and land cover. of ice and snow. In addition, changes in precipitation patterns and amount are expected to lead to increased droughts and desertification as well as floods.

Analysts have observed that worsening air and water quality due to climate change is expected to contribute to the spread of diseases accompanied by increased malnutrition, higher mortality, as well as the deterioration ecosystems affecting many plant and animal species. Climate change will also likely contribute to increased displacement of people as well as illegal migration of millions of people seeking to escape the consequences of global warming and environmental degradation.

Various measures have therefore been recommended to deal with the climate emergency. These measures include stabilizing or reducing the size of human populations, eliminating the use of fossil fuels, switching to renewable energy, reducing air pollutants, restoring ecosystems, switching from meat to predominantly plant-based diets and the transition to sustainable GDP growth.

The upcoming COP27 conference in November in Egypt is expected to follow the usual pattern of previous sessions with the adoption of a negotiated final report. However, this result is unlikely to be sufficient to meet the international goal of limiting the increase in global warming to a maximum of 1.5 Celsius.

Climate strategists, however, have indicated that despite more than two dozen annual COP sessions, various international agreements and listed targets, a binding international agreement to address the climate change emergency is lacking. Moreover, an authority that would impose policies on climate change is not likely to be established, especially given the supremacy of national sovereignty.

Nevertheless, some progress in the fight against climate change has been made in recent decades. The international community of nations adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 and the Paris Agreement in 2015. Some efforts to implement emission reduction commitments, however, have slightly reduced CO2 emissions. It has also improved energy efficiency, slowed deforestation rates and accelerated the use of renewable energy. In addition, dozens of governments are adopting additional commitments to address climate change.

President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, has worked tirelessly to persuade other countries to increase their climate change ambitions. The United States, for example, recently passed landmark legislation aimed at addressing climate change and clean energy – part of a US$369 billion broad-based effort. Consumers will be incentivized by the bill to buy new and used electric cars, heat their homes with heat pumps and even cook their food using electric induction. Electricity producers will benefit from ten years of tax credits to supply more wind and solar energy, which will lead to more renewable energy being supplied to the market. This will replace gas and coal, which generate a lot of emissions. Combined with measures to penalize methane leaks and $20 billion to cut emissions in agriculture, the entire package will likely cut US emissions by 40% from 2005 levels.

This led Joseph Chamie, consultant demographer, formerly associated with the United Nations Population Division, to observe that “it is time for governments, especially the main contributors to global warming, to implement bold actions to make in the face of the urgency of climate change”.

Disastrous environmental consequences are occurring in Africa and measures and initiatives are being attempted in this regard by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) under the theme “One Earth”. Communities around the world celebrated World Environment Day on June 5 by putting environmental concerns in the spotlight. This effort is now seen as the UN’s main platform for promoting action to protect the environment by raising awareness of issues such as human overpopulation, marine pollution, global warming, crime related to wildlife and sustainable consumption. Celebrated annually by more than 150 countries around the world, the day is a global platform to raise environmental awareness, to also showcase national and global level initiatives in promoting environmental health.

Climate analysts Jasper Kimemia and Wanjiru rightly warned in this context that it is the poor and vulnerable who will have to bear the brunt of ongoing environmental decline and that unless such a matrix is ​​properly managed, developing countries will not be able to reduce poverty and inequality.

Muhammad Zamir, former ambassador, is an analyst specializing in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance.

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