Editorial | Heat and climate change
Urgent, decisive action is needed to slow the rate of accelerated self-destruction facing the world, says Ronald Jackson, former head of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.
Mr Jackson’s warning comes as the world prepares for the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12. And he is not the only one who wants action.
Queen Elizabeth II, according to Reuters, made a rare public foray into climate politics when she expressed irritation that world leaders continue to talk about climate change but do little to address global warming. The Queen, who is due to open the Glasgow conference, was overheard remarking: “It’s really irritating when they talk but they don’t do.”
Also pushing for action ahead of the conference are more than 200 editors of health journals worldwide, who have published an editorial pleading with leaders to take emergency action on climate change. Overwhelmingly, climate scientists see this Glasgow conference as the last best chance to take action to cool global temperatures.
If we ever needed any reminder that climate change is a problem, we should just step outside at noon and we are likely to experience searing heat. One local farmer was heard complaining on international radio how agriculture has been disrupted because workers cannot tend their fields in the current hot and oppressive conditions.
Extreme heat, intense droughts and vigorous storms have been largely attributed to heat-trapping gases such as methane being released via agricultural activities and burning garbage, as well as carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.
Medical experts warn that, if left unchecked, rising temperatures can cause catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has said that rising temperatures and other manifestations of climate change have brought higher rates of heart and lung ailments and infectious diseases.
THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
It has been nearly six years since 194 States and the European Union signed an international pact to cooperate on ways to tackle climate change. Known as the Paris Climate Agreement, the ambitious goal was to organise and implement action that would limit the increase in average global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The results are in and they are dire. Not only have they failed in their objective, the planet is warmer than it has been.
We acknowledge that there are immense challenges in trying to deal with alternate energy amid a global pandemic. Small debt-burdened countries like ours will be hard put to produce the resources for climate resilience, to keep pace with the technological advances of the developed world.
We now know that carbon dioxide is the climate’s worst enemy. We also know that, if we look to renewable energy, hydro, solar and wind are among the better known options. However, we envisage a future in which innovative young scientists in the region will do the research and come up with other low-carbon energy-generation solutions. How else will we be able to build environmental resilience?
To Jamaica’s credit, a wind farm was established in Wigton in 2004 and it has been powering homes in the area with hybrid energy. And more and more people are opting to install solar panels, which are expensive at the outset but guaranteed to give good returns on investments. This is where Government could assist in giving a waiver or credit to persons who are seeking this option.
Banning single-use plastic was another bold move by Government, and the campaign seemed to have been successful with the near elimination. But where are we on dealing with domestic transport which is responsible for about a third of greenhouse emissions? Where are we on making our government departments greener and more energy-efficient? How is the Climate Change Focal Point Network helping to shrink the country’s carbon profile?
It seems that everyone has to get into action. One may ask, how does an individual build a bridge from science to action? It is imperative that we reduce our energy consumption, and we can begin by switching off lights. It is perhaps the prudent thing for persons and companies to carry out a carbon audit to see what adjustments they need to make.
An environmentally alert administration cannot ignore the warming conditions the country has been experiencing, and there is every indication that it will get worse. The experts say, despite the environmental degradation, there is time to change course. Let’s hope Glasgow provides the new signposts.