A Climate Change Emergency
Need for collective action
Climate change is the most daunting threat to the survival of humans and wild animals. Currently, the focus of most governments is on finding ways to mitigate the ill effects of the Russia-Ukraine war on their economies. But, they seem oblivious to the fact that the year 2022 is becoming the most devastating one in terms of the negative impacts of climate change. Increased frequency of wildfires across the globe, rapid melting of ice sheets and glaciers of Greenland and polar regions, unusual intensity of monsoon season in South Asia, extreme droughts and rising temperatures across Europe and the United States and climate-driven famine in most parts of the Madagascar are some serious indicators of the looming catastrophe that would be worse than the two world wars. These devastating impacts of climate change are causing large-scale displacements, famines, conflicts -over scarce water resources, damage to people as well as economies of the affected countries. The world countries need to join hands to draw up a collective action plan so that efforts can be initiated timely. A timely action plan is crucial so as to start the mitigation and adaptation measures against climate change. In case the world fails to do so, it would be a collective suicide. Following are the facts which prove that the pace of climate change is accelerating at an alarming rate and must be recognised by the international community so as to make climate change emergency on the top of the list of their priorities.
First, the frequency of heatwaves and wildfires in many parts of Europe, the United States and Canada, Latin American countries, Russia, Australia and Pakistan has increased manifolds. In the month of July 2022, wildfires spread across Europe due to the combination of intense heatwaves and droughts, which are all driven by climate change. According to the European Forest Fire Information System, as many as 19 countries are in extreme danger from wildfires. Wildfires are damaging the infrastructure and compelling people to migrate to some safe places. Temperatures in most parts of Europe have been recorded at or above 40 degrees Celsius. In some regions of Portugal, temperatures soared up to even 47 degrees Celsius. Wildfires have burnt the forests spread over more than 47,000 acres of land in France, 29,653 acres in Portugal, more than 80,000 acres in the United States in the month of July 2022. Wildfires disrupt transportation, communications, power and gas services and water supply. They kill thousands of animals and cause loss of human lives and render them homeless. Besides these impacts, wildfires produce more carbon dioxide gas which is the biggest contributor to climate change; hence, they multiply the menace.
Second, South Asia is battling with prolonged heavy spells of rain and storms driven by an above-normal monsoon season this year. This year’s monsoon season has wreaked havoc on South Asia. Intense floods in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have severely damaged homes and important infrastructure such as highways, bridges and railway lines, besides inflicting huge losses of life and property.
Third, much of the United States is undergoing intense heatwaves this year. More than 105 million people in 28 states have been badly affected due to heatwaves that caused temperatures to reach around 40 degrees Celsius.
Fourth, the most dangerous indicator of climate change is the loss of ice sheets of Greenland in huge amounts. According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, around 6 billion tonnes of ice melted per day in the month of July 2022 in Greenland. If all the ice in Greenland is melted, the sea level would rise by 7.5 metres, and it will pose a formidable threat to the existence of island nations in particular, and the whole of humanity in general. Disintegration of ice sheets in Greenland has almost reached the point of no return as ice here is melting seven times faster than in 1990s. No amount of effort will stop the ice sheets from disappearing. This is the biggest alarming bell for the world.
Fifth, glaciers in the polar regions of the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica are also melting at an accelerating rate of 13 percent per decade. The melting of polar ice is also contributing to the rise in sea levels.
Sixth, climate change has brought the famine in southern parts of Madagascar – an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Drought-like situation has devastated the crops and left more than a million people in need of urgent food aid. Scientists warn that rising temperatures will continue to worsen food insecurity and hunger cycles in southern Madagascar. Hence, it is a critical situation for the survival of people of the island nation of Madagascar.
Hence, keeping in view the above facts, the international community must come together to step up its efforts to mitigate climate change and to draw up adaption programs with an aim to counter climate change-induced disasters. Increased frequency of wildfires, droughts, floods and heatwaves vividly depicts that climate change is in action and so must we. Climate change has shown its devastating impacts and will continue to wreak havoc if the world remains inactive. This is the right time to cooperate on an international level to counter this menace. This is the right time to declare a climate emergency. The need of the hour is to devise effective strategies to cope with the situation. Stopping the burning of fossil fuels and using renewable energy resources, controlling the burgeoning pollution, spreading climate awareness among the masses, plantation drives, use of public transport instead of personal cars and using cycles for travelling at short distances are some of the strategies which must be adopted by all countries.
The writer holds a Master’s degree in Chemistry. He is also a PCS 2018 Sindh qualifier.