WORLD NEED NOT BE UNDER THE WEATHER
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