We only have one planet

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Temperatures are rising, polar icecaps are melting, and rare and endangered species are going extinct. This is the present situation in the world today. Due to the rash decisions taken by people around the world our planet is slowly being destroyed.

The time has now come to do what it takes to save what is left of the Earth and its species before they are totally wiped out. The future existence of the Earth depends on intelligent decisions. In this light the World Earth Day was celebrated last month (22 April) the world over, drawing attention to the importance of making swift decisions for a sustainable future.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, important strides have been made worldwide including the signing of the historic Paris Agreement and the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Earth Day continues to grow every year.

‘Invest in Our Planet’

This year, the theme was, ‘Invest in Our Planet’ with a focus on preserving and protecting our health, our families, and our livelihoods because a green future is a prosperous future.

Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Dilena Pathiragoda, points out that among the major environmental factors contributing to the destruction of the Earth are global warming caused by fossil fuels, poverty, food waste, loss of biodiversity, plastic pollution, deforestation, air pollution, melting ice sheets, sea level rise, as well as ocean acidification, high levels of chemical use in agriculture, food and water insecurity, and rapid accumulation of textile waste into the environment.

 “According to international environmental reports, each year, the consumption of fossil energy, minerals, metals, and biomass of the Earth is an estimated 55 billion tons. The world has already lost 80 per cent of its forests and is losing about 375 square kilometres per day. About 1,692 acres of productive dry land are being turned into desert every hour,” CEJ officials explained.

There are floating dirt islands in the ocean mostly made of plastic and it is estimated that they are as big as India, Europe and Mexico. The CEJ points out that the Earth’s inhabitants are consuming 50 per cent more natural resources than they can supply to the earth and the destruction of the environment as well as biodiversity cannot be prevented if the decisions taken in governing a country are not made wisely.

Wild animals going extinct

“At the root of the problem is the need to adapt to the energy generated by fuel power plants due to the fact that green investments are not being made in a timely manner,” CEJ officials said.

“Temperatures are rising on Earth. But many countries have not taken measures to stop the rising temperatures. In 2020 scientists said that due to the climate change a large number of wild animals are at the brink of getting wiped out. Due to environment pollution, water pollution, and air pollution the Earth is slowly being destroyed,” Director and Senior Advisor of CEJ, Hemantha Withanage said.

He said sand mining and the decision taken by the Government to allow Divisional Secretariat (DS) officials to release ‘Other State Forests’ for development activities has resulted in mass-scale environment destruction.

“Plastic pollution and the improper disposal of garbage continue. The Government and the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) are not interested in solving these issues. Decisions taken by the Government without considering the serious damage it can cause to the environment will affect the future generations of this country,” Withanage explained.       

Scientists have predicted that the world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. This explosive and exponential growth is placing enormous pressure on the planet. Indeed, scientists, including the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have repeatedly and clearly warned us that at current global warming levels the world is like a large ocean-going cargo ship; it has enormous momentum and will take massive effort to materially alter its course over the coming years.

The historic Paris Agreement

“It is humans that are most in peril if we do not urgently take meaningful steps to reduce our environmental footprint. We must fundamentally and urgently alter the way we grow, manufacture, and live our daily lives,” Scientists say.

“The pandemic’s economic, social and health impact certainly has forced policymakers and the public to realise the strategic importance of having a strong domestic life sciences industry and bio manufacturing capacities. Similar to climate change, many experts warned us for years of the possibility of a pandemic. Will the lessons learned from the pandemic experience change how we respond to the IPCC report?” CEJ officials questioned.  

Climate change is a global emergency that goes beyond national borders. It is an issue that requires international cooperation and coordinated solutions at all levels. To tackle climate change and its negative impacts, world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris reached a breakthrough on 12 December 2015: the historic Paris Agreement.

The Agreement sets long-term goals to guide all nations to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 degrees, review countries’ commitments every five years, provide financing to developing countries to mitigate climate change, strengthen resilience, and enhance abilities to adapt to climate impacts.

The Agreement is a legally binding international treaty. It entered into force on 4 November 2016. Today, 193 Parties (192 countries plus the European Union) have joined the Paris Agreement.

Reduce emissions

The Agreement includes commitments from all countries to reduce their emissions and work together to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and calls on countries to strengthen their commitments over time. The Agreement provides a pathway for developed nations to assist developing nations in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts while creating a framework for the transparent monitoring and reporting of countries’ climate goals.

The Paris Agreement provides a durable framework guiding the global effort for decades to come. It marks the beginning of a shift towards a net-zero emissions world. Implementation of the Agreement is also essential for the achievement of the SDGs.

“The Earth’s temperature has gone up about one degree Fahrenheit in the last 100 years. This may not seem like much. But small changes in the Earth’s temperature can have big effects,” Scientists explained.

Some effects are already happening they say adding that warming of the Earth’s climate has caused some snow and ice to melt, and the warming also has caused oceans to rise and has changed the timing of when certain plants grow.

By Risidra Mendis