New Straits Times - - Letters -

ISTILL re­mem­ber those days in school when we were taught about the birds and the bees. The sub­ject was called “Na­ture Study”. We were told how “na­ture” played an im­por­tant role in mak­ing the world go round.

We were made aware that “na­ture” was made up of many liv­ing or­gan­isms that de­pended on each other for their sur­vival.

Now stud­ies have shown that di­ver­sity in liv­ing or­gan­isms is im­por­tant for the sur­vival of the planet.

This is what is now re­ferred to as bio­di­ver­sity.

The sys­tems that con­nect liv­ing or­gan­isms with the other parts of na­ture in an in­tri­cate web of in­ter­de­pen­dence, called ecosys­tems, must not be bro­ken. We must make sure the sys­tems re­main healthy.

This is be­cause peo­ple agree that healthy ecosys­tems and vi­brant bio­di­ver­sity are cru­cial to life.

Even slight shifts in tem­per­a­ture can have un­wel­come ef­fects on ecosys­tems.

There is no deny­ing that ecosys­tems and bio­di­ver­sity are vul­ner­a­ble to a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing cli­mate.

Many be­lieve such trends have reper­cus­sions on so­ci­ety and ecosys­tems. It is widely con­cluded that cli­mate change can in­flu­ence crop yields, al­ter rain­fall pat­terns, ex­ac­er­bate the spread of in­fec­tious dis­eases and in­crease the fre­quency of ex­treme weather oc­cur­rences.

There are reports that cli­mate change will ac­cel­er­ate bio­di­ver­sity loss. Species are hav­ing to adapt. Some re­lo­cate their habi­tats, switch life cy­cles or de­velop phys­i­cal traits to cope.

Ex­perts say a tem­per­a­ture rise of higher than 1.5°C can wipe out up to 30 per cent of bio­di­ver­sity. A warm­ing of 3°C will put many ecosys­tems in jeop­ardy.

The Paris Agree­ment agreed to main­tain global tem­per­a­ture rises to 1.5°C.

That agree­ment was viewed by cli­mate sci­en­tists as pos­i­tive to rein in the dele­te­ri­ous con­se­quences of cli­mate change.

There are dis­turb­ing ev­i­dences of at­mo­spheric car­bon diox­ide rais­ing the acid­ity level of oceans, dam­ag­ing co­ral reefs.

The mass bleach­ing of the Great Bar­rier Reef for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year is a good ex­am­ple.

It has been re­ported that wor­ry­ing trends are emerg­ing in many of the world’s great forests and rain­forests.

Conif­er­ous forests in west­ern North Amer­ica en­counter wide­spread tree mor­tal­ity due to droughts. This has been made worse by the out­breaks of dis­eases and in­sect at­tacks.

The Ama­zon, which houses ex­cep­tional bio­di­ver­sity, is also show­ing signs of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion.

Ac­tions that rein in tem­per­a­ture rises to be­low 1.5°C are key. One re­cent study high­lights that only France, Ger­many and Swe­den in the Euro­pean Union are meet­ing their com­mit­ments un­der the Paris Agree­ment.

It has been sug­gested that the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Science-Pol­icy Plat­form on Bio­di­ver­sity and Ecosys­tem Ser­vices must as­sume a lead role in tack­ling these is­sues.

It must work with the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change to de­velop an ac­tion plan to un­der­stand the sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the cli­mate and the en­vi­ron­ment.

What is ev­i­dent is that the bio­sphere is los­ing the sparkle. The blame is on us hu­mans.

An ar­ti­cle in Na­ture magazine said mankind was screech­ing to­wards a fu­ture of col­laps­ing global ecosys­tems. This will re­sult in rapid fluc­tu­a­tions in the bio­sphere with min­i­mal warn­ing. We must choose which path we wish to fol­low.

Un­for­tu­nately, that path may now be un­der threat. The new United States ad­min­is­tra­tion has ini­ti­ated the first steps to get out of its ear­lier en­dorse­ment of the Paris Agree­ment.

Their scep­ti­cism of cli­mate change is wor­ry­ing. As the lead­ing per capita con­trib­u­tor of global green­house gas emis­sions, there is a lot that the US can do to re­verse the warm­ing trend.

How­ever, de­spite the gloomy prospects, sci­en­tists are hop­ing for an­other U-turn from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. In his first 100 days, he has made U-turns on his ear­lier com­mit­ments.

PROF DATUK DR AH­MAD IBRAHIM Tan Sri Omar Cen­tre for STI Pol­icy and Strate­gic Stud­ies, UCSI Univer­sity

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