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Insights into Editorial: Radical action needed: Environment Day theme a mission on green action

 

Context:

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is ‘Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.” It may seem a broad-sweep goal.

But the scale of anthropogenic damage done to the environment just over the last one-and-half centuries, and the scope of what must be done to correct this, is so vast that exactitude in the discourse is now elusive.

We are a mere fraction of a degree away from significant climate-change effects, with the carbon budget all but exhausted by rich nations.

Meanwhile, scores of other nations suffer crushing poverty even as experts forecast, they will shoulder a disproportionate burden when the full impact of warming comes to pass.

The window for meaningful action is closing fast, the IPCC warned us some time ago.

 

Misunderstanding of definitions of Growth and Development:

  1. The ideology or philosophy that Humans are born to master and to enjoy nature has been clearly challenged and shown their place in the ecosystem.
  2. Human race has to co-exist within the ecosystem that includes every micro and macroscopic plants, animals, and organisms, etc., as everything in the earth’s ecosystem is interdependent and important for existence of life itself.
  3. The failure of common populace to understand the realities with continued misunderstanding of definitions such as development and progress, as to destroy the very ecosystem that they are depend upon, shows the situation of perceptions not changing in spite of the warnings with clear evidential scientific proofs and research on ecology and environment.
  4. World Environment Day offers a global platform for inspiring positive change in the environment.
  5. It pushes individuals to think about the way they consume the ecosystem and gives them a chance to take action to build a greener future.

 

Environment degradation with respect to Bio-diversity:

  1. The UN says humans are consuming 1.6 times the resources the planet can restore every year.
  2. In the interim, bio-diversity has received a severe blow, with anthropogenic warming, habitat-loss, consumption, etc, having led to massive species loss.
  3. The Worldwide Fund for Nature estimates that there has been 53% decline in wildlife species since just 1970.
  4. Ice-melt, droughts, cloudbursts, devastating heat and cold waves, etc, are all there, tell-tale signs of the unprecedented impact on the planet the Anthropocene have had.
  5. Popular solutions and proposals, researchers meanwhile say, may not be adequate any longer.

 

Warmest temperatures will record in near future:

  1. Tracking global temperature trends provides a critical indicator of the impact of human activities specifically, greenhouse gas emissions on our planet.
  2. Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century.
  3. Rising temperatures are causing phenomena such as loss of sea ice and ice sheet mass, sea level rise, longer and more intense heat waves, and shifts in plant and animal habitats.
  4. The lead centre of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, has said there is a 90% likelihood that at least one year between 2021 and 2025 will become the warmest on record.
  5. Moreover, there is a 44% chance of the temperature in that year breaching 1.5 degree C, the warming-cap (above pre-industrial levels) the Paris Accord holds as ideal by 2100.
  6. In any case, the current pledges of the countries party to the accord can’t limit warming to under-2 degree C by 2100.
  7. Understanding such long-term climate trends is essential for the safety and quality of human life, allowing humans to adapt to the changing environment in ways such as planting different crops, managing our water resources and preparing for extreme weather events.

 

Solution lies in Ecosystem Restoration:

Every three seconds, the world loses plenty of forests, and, over the last century, we have destroyed half of our wetlands.

This year’s mission is to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, and to also cover the mountains and deep-water oceans.

  1. Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed in the past years, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact.
  2. Healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, yield greater benefits, such as more fertile soils, bigger yields of timber and fish, and larger stores of greenhouse gases.
  3. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration following a proposal and resolution for action by over 70 countries around the globe.
  4. The UN Decade runs from 2021 till 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.

 

Investing in ecosystems is investing in our future:

  1. World Environment Day 2021, which counts with Pakistan as the host country this year for its official celebrations, calls for urgent action to revive our damaged ecosystems.
  2. From forests to peatlands to coasts, we all depend on healthy ecosystems for our survival.
  3. Ecosystems are defined as the interaction between living organisms – plants, animals, people – with their surroundings.
  4. This includes nature, but also human-made systems such as cities or farms.
  5. Ecosystem restoration is a global undertaking at massive scale. It means repairing billions of hectares of land an area greater than China or the USA, so that people have access to food, clean water and jobs.
  6. It means bringing back plants and animals from the brink of extinction, from the peaks of mountains to the depths of the sea.
  7. But it also includes the many small actions everyone can take, every day: growing trees, greening our cities, rewilding our gardens or cleaning up trash alongside rivers and coasts.
  8. Restoring ecosystems carries substantial benefits for people. For every dollar invested in restoration, at least seven to thirty dollars in returns for society can be expected.
  9. Restoration also creates jobs in rural areas where they are most needed.
  10. Some countries have already invested in restoration as part of their strategies to bounce back from COVID-19.
  11. Others are turning to restoration to help them adapt to a climate that is already changing.

 

Way Forward:

The International Energy Agency has recently said that the goal of net zero by 2050 needs drastic global action:

  1. No new oil &gas exploration and no new coal-fired plants from this year itself,
  2. No new fossil-fuel cars from 2035, 50% of heavy trucks being EV by 2035,
  3. All coal and oil plants phased out by 2040,
  4. More than 90% of heavy industrial production to be low-emission by 2050,
  5. Energy intensity of the global GDP to fall by 4% every year between now and 2030, etc.

These are radical goals. More so, given, despite their rhetoric, G-7 nations, committed $189 billion of direct and indirect support to coal, oil, and gas between January 2020 and March 2021, compared with $147 billion to support clean energy, per an analysis by development charity Tearfund, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Overseas Development Institute.

 

Conclusion:

There is a need to rewild an area the size of China by 2030 to meet commitments on nature and climate;

A similar effort needs to be made for oceans as well. As the IEA and UN show, the need is for radical action. It will perhaps mean fundamental shifts for consumption, human habitation, progress, transport, etc.

Restoration or recreation are being taken for granted with minimal or very low outcomes that are not validated scientifically.

The need for understanding of Earth’s ecosystems and its relevance with the present-day definitions has to be compared to achieve the right definitions that can be sustainable.

The reimagination should focus on the ecology and environment of water, the restoration has to be scientific with well researched inputs from water ecologists and environmental experts to create a robust biodiversity ecosystem for the water, avian, and other life forms.

Therefore, mankind must “reimagine”, to “recreate and restore” indeed, a mission statement for environment action now.