Aren’t We Morally Obligated To Hand Over A ‘Liveable’ Planet To Our Next Generation?

WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

If you love your children or your future children, please listen to me for just 10 minutes. Climate change is currently the ‘most relevant’ issue of our lives. It is affecting and will affect the whole of the present human race and its coming generations. Climate change is being considered as the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.

And we have just 12 years left to keep the world safe for the next generations.

Global warming is a process in which the Earth’s temperature is rising uncontrollably, and this rise is leading to unbearable changes in our climate and natural resources. The rise in temperature is happening due to the heat coming from the sun, not being able to return completely. The heat coming from the sun is not able to return completely due to the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere. CO2 is emitted in the atmosphere by the most ‘basic’ activities of our lives; like energy production from coal, running of cars, trucks and buses and burning of limestone for production of cement being used in construction.

In other words, any unnatural human activity leads to CO2 getting emitted in the atmosphere. We have been living this lifestyle dependent on CO2 emission for the past 150 years. All the CO2 emitted during this span is still up in the atmosphere. This CO2, due to a particular speciality of the heat coming from the sun, lets that heat enter the Earth’s atmosphere but prevents it from completely returning. Due to this heat getting leftover continuously, we humans have raised all the Earth’s temperature by an average 1º. The temperature will keep on rising until this CO2 is in the atmosphere.

And we are keeping on pumping more CO2 in the atmosphere.

If the earth’s global temperature rises more than 1.5°C, then fixing the damage done to the environment would be beyond  human capabilities.

What can a mere 1º rise in temperature harm? Well, almost everything. The climate in all parts of the world and their seasonal cycles are all tied in a very delicate balance. This balance gets severely disturbed by even a 0.1º change in the global temperature. Disturbed seasonal cycles will lead to irregularities in the monsoons, which will hurt the crop yields. Summer’s highest temperatures are continuously breaking records for the last 10 years, and this pattern is going to continue. Cyclones coming from the sea will get bigger and more destructive due to the increased temperature. Glaciers of rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Satluj are melting rapidly; which will lead to increased irregularity and uncertainty in the water supply for a billion people living in the Indian subcontinent.

One-third of the species of bees responsible for the pollination of 95% of the crops are already extinct due to the rise in global temperature. Melting of the Earth’s Polar glaciers is leading to a rise in sea level, which will render three crore people homeless in India alone. The intensity and frequency of natural calamities like droughts, wildfires, tropical cyclones and erratic rainfall would increase with time. The catastrophe wouldn’t come at once but would instead keep on arriving. And all or any of this would lead to famines, disease, refugee crises taking a toll on the economy.

Although it is not known for sure if all these adversities or unwanted changes will happen in ‘our’ lifetime, our children would have to bear with all this for sure. It is ‘scientifically guaranteed’.

The world will be a worse place to live. How much it will worsen, is still in our hands. Will it worsen to the point of calamity, or can we control it before that? That’s in our hands now, but time is running. Last year, the scientists calculated that if the earth’s global temperature rises more than 1.5°C, then fixing the damage done to the environment would be beyond  human capabilities. It would become impossible to turn the world back into the state in which we are used to living in now. As per the current CO2 emission rate of 11 thousand tonnes per second, staying at or below 1.5°C requires slashing global greenhouse gas emissions 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050.

The biggest contribution to cutting down carbon emissions would come from fulfilling our energy requirements from alternative sources instead of fossil fuels. We would ‘have to’ learn to live with the carbon budget allotted by the scientists. Although governments have been bringing plans for shifting to alternative energy sources in the ‘eventually’ to save the ‘environment’, that term has now been reduced to a deadline of mere 12 years, and at stake is ‘the whole Earth’.

Since every activity for our subsistence relies on getting energy from burning fossil fuels, meeting this goal demands extraordinary transitions in transportation; in energy, land, and building infrastructure, and in industrial systems. It means reducing our current coal consumption by one-third, and massive afforestation—all in the narrow window of the next 12 years while our momentum pushes us in the wrong direction. The half-degree between 1°C and 1.5°C may not seem like much, but it’s a yawning gap in terms of the effort required and the consequences thereof.

Since international borders cease to exist up in the atmosphere, any country’s emissions hurt the life of the rest of the countries’ people, and thus, a requires action from every nation. Even after the governments getting conscious, new strict laws and policy changes leading to increased difficulty in everyday living and the cost of business would be vehemently opposed by the public and businesses alike. Therefore, not only the people’s leaderships but the whole populace needs to be made aware of the whole matter and conscious about the upcoming changes. People, businesses and governments, all three would need to cooperate to bring about change.

The amount of energy needed to heat the whole planet by 0.5°C is immense. So is the effort to avoid it.

The matter needs to be told to the maximum number of people possible and the quicker, the better. It’s something that wouldn’t be believed straightaway on hearing from a stranger. But it is, in fact, the plain truth and super important. News, social media are the mediums which can give it the most widespread and quickest outreach. And there’s no other source of information more trusted by the common man. The whole matter constitutes complex scientific concepts and a long sequence of upcoming events, which only a journalist can communicate simplistically and in the language, an average person understands. Thus, the participation of media outlets in this movement is of utmost importance. And thus, this adds another big responsibility for the fourth pillar.

Young climate strikers in New Delhi.

Teenagers and children have realised that they are the ones whose lives are the most at stake in this situation, and have begun movements and strikes across the world. Indian children also joined in the protest this March. To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres hosted the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September to meet the climate challenge. In conjunction to that, massive global strikes were be conducted during 20th-27th September, where people and the young climate strikers leading them, raised their voice against the ongoing crisis and demanded the declaration of a climate emergency.

In future, people who are not made aware today, shouldn’t get the chance to say that if someone had told them, they would have done something! This is our chance to open our eyes and to open everybody else’s eyes as well. Our chance to let ourselves be able to look at our grandchildren in the eyes.

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