Saving the planet and ourselves

The years 2014 to 2023 will be marked as the hottest in 150 years
Saving the planet and ourselves

Water, water everywhere: Children play near the sea as big waves hit Philippine coastal areas where Typhoon Kammuri made landfall on Dec. 3. (Photo: Basilio Sepe for Greenpeace)

Father Shay Cullen, Manila
International
December 6, 2019
As I write this, monster Typhoon Kammuri is ravaging the Bicol region in the central Philippines. It is packing winds of 209kph and is more ferocious than the previous typhoons to hit that part of this nation’s archipelago.

Tidal surges are wrecking houses and the wind is ripping away and shredding the light bamboo structures of the poor. On the mountain, landslides threaten whole villages.

This is climate change for the worst, the very worst, as the earth grows hotter and the oceans warmer, causing massive evaporation and forming the typhoons and massive rainstorms that are causing flooding everywhere.

Extreme climate events are everywhere. Australia, California and central and southern Africa were recently hit by severe droughts. Seemingly endless fires are ravaging forests worldwide and the smoke and smog are killing thousands. The great Amazon rainforest is burning. Thousands are suffering. Plants and animals are perishing. More than 100 elephants have died from starvation in Zimbabwe this year.

This we must and can stop. The experts and advocates trying to save the planet call it an "ecocide" where the ecology and environment are being destroyed before our eyes. There is always hope that humans can change their destructive lifestyles and convert from using coal and fossil fuels that drive industrial production to renewable sources of energy such as geothermal, solar and wind power.

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The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) is bringing together more than 50 heads of state in Spain, where nations must present new climate control action plans if we are to control the rise in world temperatures.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that action and important decisions must be made now to cut the greenhouse emissions that are pumping deadly gases into the atmosphere.

Coal-fired power plants and factories burning oil are the main culprits as well as the millions of diesel- and gas-powered vehicles around the world.

The change to renewable sources of electricity must be urgently accelerated if we are to hold the rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius and reach carbon neutrality by 2050 — that is, to produce no more CO2 than the forests and oceans can absorb and offset by planting trees, using carbon capture technology and having zero tolerance for greenhouse gases.

Point of no return approaches

The greater risk, according to some climate advocates, is what Guterres said this week. It is that the "point of no return is no longer over the horizon." What he means is the point when the climate gets so hot that it is not possible to stop or reverse it.

When the planet has heated up to melt the permafrost, billions of cubic feet of methane gas will rise into the atmosphere and thicken the blanket around the planet so that no heat can escape and the sun will bake us as if we are in an oven. The ice in Antarctica and the Artic is melting so fast that there is too little ice to reflect the sun’s rays back into space. It could lead to a disastrous drought globally, resulting in the failure of food crops and mass starvation.

The scientific evidence is clear. The years 2014 to 2023 will be marked as the hottest years in 150 years. That indicates that the climate has warmed by one degree since the levels in 1850-1900. The forecast is that the temperature will rise by between 1.03 and 1.57 degrees above pre-industrial levels in the coming years.

However, if nothing is done now, by 2100 the increase will reach a disastrous level of 3.2 degrees. Even if the industrialized nations act now to change, then the increase will still be a very dangerous 2.9 degrees.

The biggest polluters on the planet are the United States and China. India is not far behind. US President Donald Trump does not believe the scientific evidence that the climate is changing since he lives in permanent climate-controlled environment with air conditioning.

China wants to be as globally powerful as the United States and to keep building coal-fired power plants to produce and sell to the world and grow economically and militarily.

However, the good news is that leading Democrats from the US Congress are in Spain for the conference. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the opening of the conference that in addressing climate injustice many small island nations must have support and there must be “economic and environmental justice for all."

The president of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific said that they are fighting for life as oceans rise due to melting ice caps and their low-lying islands are inundated.

Another deep concern posed by the rising waters around the Marshall islands is the huge concrete dome known as the Runit Dome, which encases 3.1 million cubic feet of deadly radioactive debris and soil including death-dealing plutonium.

Susanne Rust of the Los Angeles Times reports that the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs between 1946 and 1958 in the Marshall Islands. Several islands were vaporized and thousands of islanders were evacuated and exiled. Many were suffering the severe effects of radiation.

The huge dome is threatened by the rising ocean and its radioactive waste will likely seep out and contaminate the water and marine life. It could be goodbye to the Marshalls and their wonderful, resilient people.

We hope not. If global action is taken to curb global warming, there is a chance that they and mankind will survive.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of ucanews. 

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