Climate change: a major global threat

Dear Editor,

The climate change – that is, the change of the global climate and in particular the changes in meteorological conditions that extend on a large time scale – is a major global existential threat.

The greenhouse effect causes the increase of temperature of the planet primarily due to the tremendous increase in carbon dioxide, which has increased by 35 percent since the beginning of the industrial revolution. And, of course, the lion’s share in pollution of the atmosphere, with 50 percent of all carbon dioxide, are Europe and North America. All other countries together are responsible for the other half, while the poorest countries are the least responsible. However, the people who live in these countries will suffer more strongly the consequences.

The causes of climate change are mainly identified in combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gasoline, natural gas, etc.), which account for 50 percent of total emissions; in the production and use of synthetic chemicals; in disaster of forest areas, which contributes to the production of additional gases in the atmosphere; of course in the greenhouse effect by 15 percent; and in conventional agriculture and livestock farming, which account for 15% of emissions.

Scientists knock the danger bell and warn that if there is no urgent, global, coordinated action by political leaders, governments, industries and citizens around the world, the temperature of the planet is likely to rise above 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels by 2060 and the increase could even reach 5°C by the end of the 21st Century – a fact that will make the lives of future generations problematic.

Such an increase in the temperature of our planet will have a devastating impact on nature, bringing about irreversible changes in many ecosystems and a consequent loss of biodiversity – that is, all living organisms and species that make up life on the planet, including animals, birds, fish and plants (fauna and flora). Many species are expected to disappear from areas that will be directly and severely affected by climate change.

Today, compared to 1850 – from when recording data began – a temperature increase of 1.1°C is observed. So, it is of vital importance that the increase not exceed 1.5°C because, as scientists estimate, beyond this crucial point there will be no way back.

The climate change, however, which is due to human activities, is a tangible and ominous reality, and is already adversely affecting our planet. The sectors responsible for the production of greenhouse gases are primarily the sector of energy produce (units of production of electrical power, refineries) but also industrial activities, the modern means of transport (cars, airplanes, etc.) and the activities of the primary production sector.

So, the extreme weather events; the uncontrolled fires in forests such as the Amazon, which has been characterized as the “lung” of the planet; the heat waves; the heavy rainfall; the prolonged droughts that create serious eating problems in the affected areas of the planet; and the very powerful hurricanes are all becoming more common and more intense, costing tens of thousands of lives every year and causing huge disasters.

The ice, at the same time, and snow on the poles are melting, with the Arctic being the biggest victim to date; and as the world average sea level goes up, it causes floods and erosion on coasts and lowland coastal areas, and creates environmental refugees. If this unfavorable development continues, areas such as the Netherlands and Venice will be at risk of being permanently lost under the sea waters as the new Atlantis.

The climate change increases existing diseases worldwide but also creates new ones, and can also lead to premature death. Too many diseases are particularly sensitive to temperature change, including communicable diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, encephalitis and dengue fever; but also eating disorders, mental illnesses, cardiovascular diseases as well as respiratory diseases.

The climate change will also have negative impacts on the economies of impacted countries given the fact that the high temperatures undermine the productivity of most sectors of the economy, from the agricultural sector to processing. Some scientists predict that by the end of the century, global GDP will have fallen by 7.22 percent from what it would have been without climate change.

Swedish teen activist against climate change Greta Thunberg has managed, in the most vigorous and loud way, to pass debate over this huge problem by the heads of state and government – and also in public dialogue, in society and in friendly discussions – mobilizing millions of people around the world, especially young people, who began to demonstrate demanding by governments immediately take measures to confront climate change.

Swedish MPs rightly nominated Thunberg for the Nobel Peace Prize. And, of course, she is very right when she says that the measures being taken to reduce greenhouse gases and, above all, carbon dioxide are not sufficient.

So, what are the appropriate measures to be taken without delay to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and keep the temperature at or below 1.5°C?

The basic policies for resolutely mitigating the problem consist of promoting and utilizing renewable energy sources (wind, solar, biomass, etc.); enhancing energy efficiency; the drastic reduction of the exploitation of oil and gas deposits and the imposition of carbon taxes in order to limit the use of fossil fuels and thereby to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050 at the latest; the rapid reduction of emissions of methane, carbon black and other short-lived pollutants that burden the climate; and the restoration and protection of ecosystems and, above all, forests.

The Paris Agreement, the first universal, legally binding agreement for the climate, entered into force in 2016 with great optimism and manifest ambitions, despite the official departure statement of the U.S. (which is one of the biggest polluters). Four years have passed since then and there are no substantial results, a fact which raises serious questions as to whether there is really the political will to tackle this particularly threatening global problem.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that the effects of climate change will be so dramatic that human civilization will be in danger of collapsing like a paper tower. So, in the face of this extremely dangerous climate crisis, citizens around the world should increase their mobilization even further and political leaders should finally stand up at the height of the circumstances and immediately take the necessary drastic measures, before it is too late, to reverse this unsustainable course and save the planet.

– Isidoros Karderinis

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