Wake up! Time is ticking on climate change

By: Qur’an Hansford

Almost two years ago, I was sitting in the same spot writing an editorial on the same topic: climate change and how the high levels of carbon dioxide have contributed to global warming. Two years ago the Washington Post declared that the world had less than 10 years to get climate change under control, as predicted by United Nations scientists. 

Two years later, the United Nations (UN) has issued another daunting statement about the life expectancy of the Earth. “We’ve reached the deadline — and the world has collectively failed to fully achieve a single goal,” according to the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook report. The “deadline” the UN references is The Aichi Biodiversity Targets. In 2010, leaders from 196 countries gathered in Japan and agreed on a list of goals designed to save the Earth. The plan laid out a 10-year plan to conserve the world’s biodiversity, promote sustainability, and protect ecosystems. The targets were ambitious, but crucial. One, for instance, aimed to prevent the extinction of threatened species and improve their status by 2020, according to CNN.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets has five strategic goals that outlines the 20 targets to conserve the world’s biodiversity.

Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society (Targets 1-4)

Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use (Targets 5-10) 

Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity (Targets 11-13)

Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services (Targets 14- 16)

Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building (Targets 17-20)

Of the 20 goals, only six have been “partially achieved,” according to CNN. On average, the participating countries reported that more than a third of national targets are on track to be met; half of the national targets were seeing slower progress; 11% of targets show no significant progress and 1% are actually moving in the wrong direction.

Although the topic seems more of a popular conversation in recent news, it is not a new one. Scientists have been detecting global warming since the 1800s. According to the American Institute of Physics, between 1800 and 1870, the level of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) in the atmosphere measured in ancient ice was about 290 ppm (parts per million). The average global temperature during this time (1850-1890) was roughly 13.7 degrees celsius, equating to 56.6 degrees fahrenheit. According to the American Institute of Physics, as of 2015 researchers found the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet irreversible, bringing meters of sea-level rise over future centuries. “Average global temperature [in 2015] is 14.8 degrees celsius (58.6 degrees fahrenheit), the warmest in thousands of years. Level of CO2 in the atmosphere goes above 400 ppm, the highest in millions of years.” 

In Greenland, an iceberg floats in an inlet melting at an alarming rate. Scientists often consider Greenland “ground zero of the Earth’s climate,” and because the island is mostly in the Arctic, melting ice from Greenland’s ice sheets is the largest contributor to the rising sea levels that can become catastrophic for coastal communities of all land sources.

“The Climate Clock, unveiled by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, warned that there were 7 years, 101 days, 17 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds until Earth’s carbon budget is depleted, based on current emission rates. A total depletion would thrust the world into further turmoil and suffering through more flooding, more wildfires, worsening famine and extensive human displacement,” reported the Washington Post. 

An alarming piece of information I came across is that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, according to The Guardian. A small number of fossil fuels producers as well as investors can be the solution in seizing climate change. If we continue our trajectory in the accelerating climate crisis, biodiversity will continue to deteriorate, driven by “currently unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, population growth and technological developments,” the Global Biodiversity Outlook report said. The responsibility begins to shift to the everyday person, calling for us to recycle and switch to paper straws, although things that will help it will not solve the problem. Instead, the responsibility should be geared toward the few multi-billion-dollar companies that have accumulated the majority of CO2 in the world, but which one is easier?

The nation has seen a soar of wildfires across western and southwestern states in Wyoming, Oregon and California. In Oregon, the citizens are mourning the loss of national treasures and natural places after wildfires wiped out campgrounds, hot springs and wooded retreats that “have been touchstones for generations in a state known for its unspoiled beauty,” according to AP News. Oregon State Parks said that 900 acres within various parks had burned. The worst-hit location was Collier Memorial State Park near Klamath Falls, which lost 400 acres of ponderosa pine and a historic cabin. “Studies of ash and carbon layers show that the area burned at least twice before, in the 1500s and the 1800s. But the conditions this time were so dry and hot, with fierce winds pushing burning embers a mile ahead of the fire line, that the forest’s future is uncertain,” according to AP News.  

  “I am from San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California. I am very lucky that I moved out of LA two months before fire month. However, the air quality was awful for several days. Ash was falling in heavy quantities and a new layer can be found on my car every morning. In terms of being safe we try to stay indoors because of the air quality. I’m really lucky that I didn’t have to evacuate. My grandparents moved to Oregon two weeks ago, their house was right in the path of the fires. They did have to evacuate for several days. Luckily they are safe as well as their home,” said freshman journalism major Tristan Leach.   

“Humanity stands at a crossroads with regard to the legacy it leaves to future generations. Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, and the pressures driving this decline are intensifying,” the United Nations’ Global Biodiversity Outlook report warned. The effects of climate change are obvious and severe, the time to turn a blind eye to the deterioration of the planet is far behind us. What I think we seem to forget is that nature is delicate and needs to be taken care of. Humans have overstayed their welcome and caused nothing but pollution to a once green and healthy planet. We should feel guilty for overpopulating and ravaging the Earth until nothing was left. I understand the need to survive, but we have become greedy for capital gain, not giving a second thought about the long term effects of industrialization. I call on my generation to consider electing officials who care about the Earth we inhabit and want to create a future our kids can live to see. 

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