Acting on Climate Change: A Moment of Truth for Humankind
Today, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse: Famine, Pestilence, War and Death rode into Copenhagen as a reminder to world leaders of the consequences of inaction on climate change. The symbolic gesture is unfortunately not that far fetched, as the reality of global hunger and mass migration could become the future we face if we collectively fail to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.
Climate change will have a devastating impact on food supplies across the world, some of which are already scarce. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that one billion people worldwide currently suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition. Climate change will bring on massive food shortages for millions more. Meanwhile, as heat waves, floods, storms and fires keep intensifying they would bring with them outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, Dengue fever and malaria.
An estimated 300,000 people are already dying every year due to the consequences of climate change. Some scientists and analysts are projecting that those deaths could reach 500,000 a year by 2030, if we maintain our current emission levels of greenhouse gases. The death toll could rise even higher as resource scarcity brings mass migration, potentially putting the displaced into violent conflict with other societies in a gruesome fight for survival.
If world leaders do not take bold action now, by 2100 we will have lost a large section of our global coastal areas due to a 1.5 meter rise of sea level. An estimated 600 million people living in coastal areas of the planet will be displaced from their habitats. Venice would be lost from Europe, so would New Orleans from the United States.
Meanwhile, world leaders are bickering and wasting the precious time we have to make a deal in Copenhagen. Today, the talks were suspended after protests led by African countries. The African nations accused developed countries of trying to wreck the existing Kyoto protocol. Another example of what could make the talks fail is the growing tension between China and the US, which are the two biggest polluters of the planet. A Chinese official called the US climate envoy, Todd Stern, “irresponsible” last Friday after the US envoy said that “the US was not in any debt to the world for its historically high carbon emissions”.
It is a moral obligation to take full responsibility for our actions and correct our “business as usual” approach to climate change. The scope of the challenge is unprecedented and requires exceptional resolve to tackle it. If we don’t act decisively, we will leave our children and grandchildren a planet in a shambles. In return, they will certainly and rightly curse our memories for our arrogance, stupidity and tragic lack of foresight.