Second warning

Two days ago, on Monday, November 13th, the World was put on notice for the second time in twenty-five years by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  The message was plain and simple – mankind has to change his approach to managing the Earth’s sources or life on planet Earth will cease to exist as we know it today.

In an article published in the November edition of Bioscience, a monthly scientific journal, published by the Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (established 1964), scientists revisited the 1992 manifesto published by the Union and more than 1700 independent scientists including most of the world’s then living Nobel laureates, in which they had expressed the opinion that humanity was pushing the Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacity to support the web of life.

Among their concerns documented twenty-five years ago were the then current, impending and potential damage of climate change, depletion of the ozone layer, deforestation, ocean dead zones, fresh water availability, and continued growth of the population of mankind. They also pleaded for a cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fossil fuels. They advocated for an urgent “change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.”

The article evaluated mankind’s response to the initial warning issued a quarter of a century ago, lamenting man’s failure to heed it while pointing out that in most cases these predicted environmental challenges had actually escalated. Two areas of grave concern are the current projections for devastating effects of climate change as a result of rising GHGs from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

The nine graphs complementing the scientists’ paper only served to accentuate the current position mankind finds himself in. The illustrations reflecting freshwater resources per capita, reconstructed marine catch, total forest, and vertebrate species abundance all display alarming downward trends, whilst the charts for dead zones, CO2 emissions, temperature change and the Earth’s population display equally disturbing escalating trends. In some instances, the statistics did not include the developing countries where fewer studies have been carried out, but the overall patterns are worrisome to say the least.

The graphical presentation on ozone depletors was the only one reflecting good news of mankind’s response to the looming Earth crisis. The trend is one continuous reduction, however, it should be noted that this started before the 1992 alarm sounded by the scientists’ union. It just goes to show that we are capable of decisive action.

According to the article other areas of progress include reductions in poverty and hunger (based on statistics from the World Bank’s website), the noticeable decline in fertility rates in many areas due to investment in girl’s and women’s education and the quick growth in the renewable energy sector.

It was duly noted that mankind has learnt quite a bit since the last decade of the previous century but we still need to make urgent changes in environmental policies and human behaviour. As expected, the scientists made another list of urgent proposals, including the following; “prioritizing the enactment  of connected well-funded and well-managed reserves for a significant proportion of the world’s terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and aerial habitats; … halting the conversion of forests, grasslands and other native habitats; … reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure; … devising and promoting new green technologies and massively adopting renewable energy sources while phasing out subsidies  to energy production through fossil fuels.”

This is the second warning which has been issued by the world’s leading scientists on this subject, by and large, the first was virtually ignored. Unfortunately, the powers that be, the ones that should be leading the change will most likely continue to dismiss this important message as “fake news” and blatant lies.

The Paris Agreement was entered into force on the 4th November, 2016. The main aim of the convention of nations being “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” It is a start, albeit somewhat late.

We, here in Guyana, grossly underdeveloped and sitting on top of one last remaining untouched rainforests, find ourselves blessed and  in demand for the vital resources necessary to begin to reverse these alarming trends. The commitments of the previous and current governments to the Iwokrama Project and the Guyana-Norway Agreement are positives that all Guyanese should be proud of, but there is still a lot of conscious work to be done in this area. We all have to get on board with the pursuit of a green economy and reducing our carbon footprint as to go about our daily lives.

We were warned once before, and we failed to heed it. We might not get another one, as the article opined, “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”

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