Climate change: the defining issue of our time

Dan Eboka addresses the issues on the perception of climate change in society.

Over time we’ve let the subject of climate change morph into near myth. A dooms day tale told and retold over time so that people are unable to acknowledge its reality or understand its very imminence. 

The increase in greenhouse gases in and around the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activity, absorbing and trapping the suns heat thus increasing the earth’s temperature, has caused extreme weather patterns. Followed by the melting of arctic ice caps, increasing sea levels and extreme floods in coastal areas around the globe, all has culminated into the destruction of natural habitats around the world and the extinction of certain Earth species that are unable to adapt themselves to the extreme changes. 

Told over time, the whole thought sounds rather like some big budget Hollywood science fiction. Admirers should expect tsunamis the size of Everest bursting from beneath the horizon, covering the sun and leaving the earth in a blanket of darkness, throwing in some hail stones for extra measure. Then cue Tom Cruise, our man of action, diving into the depths to save humanity.  

The fact is that with each morning we wake up under clear skies, with no sight of some Great White swimming past our windows. And so, the thought is driven farther and farther into the field of myth. Even for some, a Nostradamus prophecy. 

With President Trump tweeting comments like “global warming is a hoax”, pointing to his “high intelligence” as a factor for his scepticism and disbelief in climate change reports. It is quite difficult to persuade those looking to him as a higher voice of credibility. 

Image courtesy: US National Archives

The facts we must listen to:

The lamentations of António Guterres, during his speech last September at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. speak the truth “Climate change is the defining issue of our time… with its speed producing a sonic boom S.O.S across our world”. UN Secretary General This past May, the World Meteorological organisation recorded the highest monthly average of carbon dioxide levels ever recorded. 400 parts per million had been considered the critical threshold. We have currently surpassed 411 which are the highest in 3 million years. The past two decades have been recorded as 18 of the warmest years since 1850. For the first time, in 2018, thick permanent sea ice on North of Greenland has begun to break up. With dramatic melting in the arctic triggering extreme weather patterns across the northern hemisphere. 

When barraged with a wealth of facts like these we must look on the effects these changes have in real times. Last August in what was said to be the worst monsoon flooding in recent history, in the Indian state of Kerala, 400 people lost their lives while about a million people where rendered homeless. In 2017, Hurricane Maria claimed the lives of almost 30,000 people in Puerto Rico, making it one of the deadliest extreme weather disasters in US history. 

Due to the destruction of ecosystems, pushed further by deforestation, certain species are unable to adapt to these harsh changes and have become endangered or even extinct. The polar bears of the Arctic have become vulnerable just like the golden toads of Costa Rica are becoming completely extinct. The golden toad is among the small number of species whose recent extinction is the result of neglected attention towards climate change. With its habitat in mountain-top cloud forests, this specie of toad has become extinct due to drought. 

Furthermore, the high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have made rice crops less nutritious, spelling problems for the many indigenous famers; whose lively hood is hinged on cultivating these plants ultimately threatening their wellbeing and food security. 

We have seen these issues mount into more insidious ones and climate change could be blamed for some local conflicts. This thought would not be farfetched as eventually flooding, droughts, extinction and all-round devastation would bring about the loss of land, food and a depletion of resources leaving many to compete over the scarce resources available. Climate change can even be linked to a rise in immigration, as many leave the destroyed lands in search for better opportunities.

It is high time we wake up to the reality. There would be no single emphatic bang signalling the beginning of dooms day. As we speak, the effects of climate change are already being felt in many rural areas and in the poorest countries around the world. The human activities contributing to its effect are ever occurring on a global scale, fossil fuels are continually being burnt and used to power industries, factories, powerplants and cars around the world. There has been an increase in carbon emissions in the atmosphere, while the trees that help clean our atmosphere are being removed due to deforestation. In short, the share extent and scale of this destruction is seemingly irreversible, making climate change the greatest threat facing us.

It is for the richest and most industrially advance countries to make a change by swapping gas and oil for other renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and water. This idea of switching from fossil fuels to “renewable” source of energy is often shunned. It is supposed to be impractical or inefficient. However in recent years we’ve seen countries take up the mantle. From China investing 126 billion dollars in renewable energy an increase of 30% on the previous year; to Sweden hitting its 2030 target for renewable energy in 2018 which is 12 years earlier; Scotland opening the world’s first floating wind farm; and Morocco building a solar-farm the size of Paris to power more than one million homes by 2020, proves that all is practical and efficient. 

The alternative is we fail to act and keep on waiting for dooms day as the earth gradually plummets into the depths. Then we are left at the mercy of Elon Musk’s seeming obsession: humanity, stuck on a spacecraft on a trip to colonize the red planet. Now that’s a science fiction film, if I’ve ever seen any.  

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