Threats to planet now far worse: 15K ex­perts

Heat on ‘cli­mate chan­cel­lor’

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MI­AMI, Nov 14, (Agen­cies): Twenty-five years af­ter global sci­en­tists is­sued a “warn­ing to hu­man­ity” about dangers to the en­vi­ron­ment, a new up­date re­leased Mon­day says most of the planet’s prob­lems are get­ting “far worse.”

More than 15,000 global sci­en­tists from 184 coun­tries signed on to the let­ter, called the “World Sci­en­tists’ Warn­ing to Hu­man­ity: A Sec­ond No­tice,” pub­lished in the jour­nal BioS­cience.

The ini­tial ver­sion, re­leased in 1992 by the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, was signed by 1,700 ex­perts.

Since then, nearly all ma­jor threats to the en­vi­ron­ment have grown more dire, par­tic­u­larly the boom­ing world pop­u­la­tion, which has added two bil­lion peo­ple since 1992, a 35 per­cent in­crease, ac­cord­ing to the up­date. Other key threats are global warm­ing and the ev­er­mount­ing car­bon emis­sions driven by fos­sil fuel use, as well as un­sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices, de­for­esta­tion, lack of fresh wa­ter, loss of marine life and grow­ing ocean dead zones.

“Hu­man­ity is now be­ing given a sec­ond no­tice, as il­lus­trated by these alarm­ing trends,” said the let­ter.

“We are jeop­ar­diz­ing our fu­ture by not rein­ing in our in­tense but ge­o­graph­i­cally and de­mo­graph­i­cally un­even ma­te­rial con­sump­tion and by not per­ceiv­ing con­tin­ued rapid pop­u­la­tion growth as a pri­mary driver be­hind many eco­log­i­cal and even so­ci­etal threats,” it added.

Sci­en­tists noted it is “es­pe­cially trou­bling” that the world con­tin­ues on a path to­ward “po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic cli­mate change due to ris­ing green­house gases from burn­ing fos­sil fu­els.”

An­i­mals are suf­fer­ing as a re­sult of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties, and are dis­ap­pear­ing at an un­prece­dented pace.

“We have un­leashed a mass ex­tinc­tion event, the sixth in roughly 540 mil­lion years, wherein many cur­rent life forms could be an­ni­hi­lated or at least com­mit­ted to ex­tinc­tion by the end of this cen­tury,” it said.

Only one prob­lem has seen con­sid­er­able im­prove­ments in a quar­ter cen­tury – the clos­ing of the ozone hole – thanks to a steep re­duc­tion in the use of aerosol sprays and pol­lu­tants that led to ozone de­ple­tion.

De­plet­ing

This “rapid global de­cline in ozone-de­plet­ing sub­stances shows that we can make pos­i­tive change when we act de­ci­sively.”

The let­ter out­lines 13 steps that must be taken, in­clud­ing mak­ing con­tra­cep­tion more widely avail­able and “es­ti­mat­ing a sci­en­tif­i­cally de­fen­si­ble, sus­tain­able hu­man pop­u­la­tion size for the long term while ral­ly­ing na­tions and lead­ers to sup­port that vi­tal goal.”

Other steps in­clude pro­mot­ing plant-based di­ets and re­new­able en­ergy while phas­ing out sub­si­dies for fos­sil fu­els. Wealth in­equal­ity must be reme­died and “prices, tax­a­tion, and in­cen­tive sys­tems (must) take into ac­count the real costs which con­sump­tion pat­terns im­pose on our en­vi­ron­ment.”

In na­ture, pro­tected re­serves should be es­tab­lished “for a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of the world,” and the cri­sis of wildlife traf­fick­ing and il­le­gal poach­ing halted.

“To pre­vent wide­spread mis­ery and cat­a­strophic bio­di­ver­sity loss, hu­man­ity must prac­tice a more en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able al­ter­na­tive to busi­ness as usual,” said the let­ter.

“This pre­scrip­tion was well ar­tic­u­lated by the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tists 25 years ago, but in most re­spects, we have not heeded their warn­ing.

“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our fail­ing tra­jec­tory, and time is run­ning out.”

An­gela Merkel has been dubbed the “cli­mate chan­cel­lor” but she now faces the real risk of Ger­many, a green en­ergy pi­o­neer, miss­ing its emis­sions re­duc­tion tar­get on her watch.

Bat­tles over dirty coal plants and the com­bus­tion en­gine have dogged her ef­forts to forge an un­likely three-way gov­ern­ing al­liance with the Greens and probusi­ness Free Democrats (FDP).

They are also flash­point is­sues as Ger­many and Fiji co-host UN cli­mate talks in Bonn, which Merkel will ad­dress dur­ing a visit on Wed­nes­day with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron.

Crit­ics charge that Merkel, a trained physi­cist who has of­ten cham­pi­oned cli­mate ac­tion on the world stage, tends to cave in to busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests when it mat­ters.

Merkel has op­posed stricter EU emis­sions lim­its for cars, fought planned diesel bans in ci­ties suf­fer­ing toxic air pol­lu­tion and shelved a plan to get one mil­lion elec­tric ve­hi­cles onto Ger­man roads by 2020.

Weekly news­pa­per Die Zeit harshly com­pared Merkel’s poli­cies to that of cli­mate change-deny­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, adding that “at least Trump is hon­est about it”.

Cru­cial

Merkel, at a G7 sum­mit she hosted in 2015, wrested a cru­cial if lofty prom­ise from the world’s lead­ing economies – to “de­car­bonise” by the end of the cen­tury.

On Satur­day she said that Ger­many and other ad­vanced economies must make sure “things change” in order to slow the trend of melt­ing ice caps, ris­ing seas and wors­en­ing storms, floods and droughts.

“The ur­gency, as we can tell from the nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, is great,” she warned in her weekly video pod­cast, stress­ing that an over­heat­ing planet was a key driver of mi­grant flows.

But she also made clear that Ger­many must pro­tect its “in­dus­trial core” and that “if steel­works, alu­minium plants and cop­per smelters all leave our coun­try and move some­where with weaker en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, then we won’t have gained any­thing for the global cli­mate”.

Miss­ing from that list were coal-fired power plants, Ger­many’s cur­rent en­vi­ron­men­tal hot-but­ton is­sue that has sparked mass ral­lies.

Ger­many has in the past two decades raised the share of wind, so­lar and other clean re­new­ables to one third of its elec­tric­ity needs, while moth­balling nu­clear plants.

But coal, cheap and abun­dant, still makes up 40 per­cent, and Ger­many’s car­bon emis­sions have not fallen for the past eight years.

Ger­many has promised to cut its green­house gas emis­sions by 40 per­cent by 2020 from 1990 lev­els. But it is now on track for only a 32 per­cent re­duc­tion.

Miss­ing the clos­est tar­get would raise big ques­tions about Ger­many’s far more am­bi­tious goals of slash­ing emis­sions by 55 per­cent by 2030 — and by up to 95 per­cent by mid-cen­tury.

The Greens, in the lead-up to Septem­ber elec­tions, had promised to im­me­di­ately shut­ter Ger­many’s 20 most pol­lut­ing coal plants, and to phase out coal and fos­sil fuel-pow­ered cars by 2030.

Merkel

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