FeaturedInternationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 24

Climate crisis an existential threat

Billions of people would be worst affected over the next 30 years if the world doesn’t act urgently to address the global environmental crisis. Rising food prices, droughts, food shortages, extreme flooding and coastal erosion will wipe trillions of pounds off economies around the world. Climate change has already put the future of every child around the world at stake.

The climate crisis poses more serious threats to the planet and its inhabitants than what was previously feared. Scientists warn we have not been left with much time to reverse its bad effects. A World Wildlife Fund report reveals for the first time the countries whose economies would be worst affected over the next 30 years if the world doesn’t act urgently to address the crisis. The study, Global Futures, which calculated the economic cost of nature’s decline across 140 countries ranging from India to Brazil, shows that if the world carries on with “business as usual,” the United States would see the largest losses of annual GDP in absolute terms, with $83 billion wiped off its economy each year by 2050 – an amount equivalent to the entire annual GDP of Guatemala.

The study found the status quo approach would cost the world at least $479 billion a year, adding up to $9.87 trillion by 2050 – roughly equivalent to the combined economies of the UK, France, India and Brazil. Japan and the UK also stand to lose staggering amounts – $80 billion and $21 billion every year respectively. The projected economic losses in the United States, Japan and the UK are due largely to expected damage to their coastal infrastructure and agricultural land through increased flooding and erosion as a result of losses of natural coastal defenses such as coral reefs and mangroves.

Developing countries will also be badly affected, with Eastern and Western Africa, central Asia and parts of South America hit particularly hard, as nature loss impacts on production levels, trade and food prices. According to the report, the top three countries predicted to lose the most as a percentage of their GDP are Madagascar, Togo and Vietnam, which by 2050 are expected to respectively see declines of 4.2pc, 3.4pc and 2.8pc per year. In contrast, under a scenario in which land-use is carefully managed to avoid further loss of areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services, which the study terms the “Global Conservation” scenario, economic outcomes would be dramatically better, with global GDP rising by $490 billion per year above the business as usual calculation.

Scientists say humanity faces some major challenges, all of which need to be overcome to ensure life on Earth continues to thrive. Some of the problems humanity faces include global warming, the booming population which is set to reach 10 billion by 2050, extreme weather events which will be exacerbated by climate change and the dwindling stores of freshwater supply, to name a few issues. A survey which questioned 200 scientists found that as the issues are all occurring at the same time, they are exacerbating one another which is creating a vicious cycle that humanity needs to tackle. For example, the report states heat waves caused by extreme weather lead to further global warming, accelerated by the planet releasing natural gasses, such as CO2 stored in the ice caps. This in turn leads to a loss of biodiversity, which threatens the global food chain and natural resources.

The report, from Future Earth, lists five things which are the major problems humanity faces immediately. They are: Extreme weather, climate change, the decline of life-sustaining ecosystems, food security and dwindling stores of fresh water. The planet continues to warm, with scientists stating the global temperature has risen by roughly 0.15-0.20C per decade. This has led to the visible loss of ice in the polar caps but frozen water is also melting beneath the surface, scientists have warned.

According to a major international report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), climate change, conflict and harmful marketing practices that drive obesity threaten the health and future of children worldwide. The report, titled “A Future for the World’s Children,” found that no country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their future in the face of “environmental and existential threats”. Researchers analysed data from 180 countries and compared performance on child survival and wellbeing, based on health, education, nutrition, equity and sustainability measures. Children in Norway, Korea and the Netherlands were found to have the best chance of good health, education and nutrition, while children in Central African Republic, Chad and Somalia faced the worst odds. While wealthy countries tended to do better on child health and development outcomes, their disproportionately high carbon emissions threatened the future of all children. “Every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures,” it warned.

Besides claiming almost 300,000 lives in the world, Covid-19 also hampered global efforts to address climate change, which is feared to be more difficult to tackle after the pandemic ends. Global warming has already made parts of the world hotter than the human body can withstand, decades earlier than climate models expected. Scientists say if global warming exceeds 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 in line with current projections, devastating health consequences are predicted, due to heat waves, malnutrition and the proliferation of diseases like malaria and dengue. Decades of deliberate harm to nature has come to haunt humans now. They will have to take urgent measures to reverse the situation.