A man checks his rice paddy crop damaged by drought in Kuta Cot Glie in Indonesia's Aceh province on March 2. Global warming is causing more frequent droughts. (Photo: AFP)
One of the most famous and committed protectors of the natural world and defender of the planet is David Attenborough.
He gave a speech online to the members of the UN Security Council on climate change and security in the last week of February. Climate change is disrupting our world and the temperature has risen by one degree Celsius and it will not go back. There is no going back, he said. We have reached a point of no return and that is a security risk to the planet and to every nation. We can stop it rising higher.
One of the grave security risks is the increase in number and severity of natural disasters that is turning millions of people into victims of droughts where rice fields are turning to deserts in one part of the world and becoming permanent lakes in others. The devastating fires around the globe have driven thousands from their homes and killed millions of animals. Wildlife is fast disappearing. Many people are so complacent to see birds flying and fish swimming in the sea that they cannot imagine them going extinct. Many species are already diminished or extinct because of us and our fossil fuel-based lifestyles.
In Surigao in the Philippines, thousands have been driven into shelters as their homes are flooded and crops destroyed and livestock killed by the latest typhoon. Millions of poor are the worst affected. Climate refugees are becoming the greatest security threat as millions are displaced by natural disasters. The hunger and poverty force them to head for the rich nations and besiege their borders begging for help and work. Their numbers will continue to surge.
Besides, the rise in carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants and vehicles is making the earth warmer. Vast tracts of marshlands in Siberia and near the Arctic Circle are melting, releasing billions of tons of methane into the atmosphere. This, too, is adding to the blanket of gas that is insulating the planet and preventing the heat from escaping while the sun beats down roasting everything on the planet.Winters are already harsher, colder and more prolonged as happened this year again in the northern hemisphere reaching as far south as Texas in the US, cutting the electric power grid and people almost dying of cold as one child did. This is unheard of in many years. Nothing like this increase in global temperatures has happened for millions of years and when it did, the earth was uninhabitable, even animals could hardly survive, and thousands of species became extinct. It’s happening again all because of we humans, the species with the big intelligent brains who should know better. We do know better, but a good choice does not always follow the facts.
Many politicians and corporate bosses, especially in the developed economies, refuse to face and admit the truth of global warming and dangerous climate change simply because of corporate greed, the love of comfort and money and to retain political power and economic growth. David Attenborough tried to convince the Security Council of this fact.
The near absence of political will and the blindness of denial are allowing the planet’s temperature to creep upward to the maximum allowable temperature increase of 2C before even greater disaster will occur. Even this one-degree increases, the experts say, is already a calamity. An increase of 0.75 degrees is causing the death of the coral reefs — the life-giving food of thousands of species of fish upon which millions of families depend for a daily meal.
The oceans are under threat, too, not only from overfishing but because they are absorbing all the CO2 they can and are becoming more acidic. Global fish stocks are threatened as a result. There will be more massive crop failures, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, greater forest destruction and massive population migrations.
If it sounds all gloom and doom, it is, and we have to take serious action to stop it. The deadline is a tipping point of global temperature that when reached could make the warming irreversible and perhaps it already is.
If we humans continue destructive behavior, such as destroying forests and burning fossil fuels in coal plants to make electricity and populating the world with billions of methane-making cattle, we are making big trouble for ourselves and the rest of humankind.
The forests are threatened not only by greedy humans in Hungary, the Amazon and Southeast Asia by logging and growing soya and raising cattle for beef but also by disease due to the warmer temperature where tree-destroying diseases and insects thrive. The billion cattle are releasing methane, a greenhouse gas dangerous to the planet.
Committed environmentalists march, demonstrate and petition seeking to protect the nature. We can all be environmentalists. We, too, can change our community to be more climate-friendly by protecting our local environment, speaking out against logging, planting trees, recycling, and establishing organic food gardens to feed ourselves and eat less meat. Each of us can find a way to be involved in saving the environment in our community.
Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in the Philippines in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sexual abuse. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.