‘The aggression towards Mother Earth and the repeated assaults and violations against our soils, air, forests, rivers, lakes, biodiversity, and the cosmos are assaults against us’
Indigenous People Declaration adopted at the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia
As we can see in this declaration of Indigenous People, the natural world in which we live in has been negatively shaped by mankind. Unfortunately during the last centuries, especially since European colonialism and the industrial revolution, humans have had a deeper impact on the environment, one that sadly have negatively influenced the lives of many ecosystems and even other humans. Progressives around the world should not forget about these topics and make an effort to ensure a more balanced and natural world.
Perhaps the first major big impact on the environment was the extinction of the Northern American mega fauna during the last Ice Age around 15000 years ago. Although the abrupt global warming probably played a significant role the colonization of the American continent led to a new predator for the herbivores and a new competitor for carnivores, one with weapons that could kill prey more effectively.
However after the Industrial Revolution human effects on the environment became stronger and also more global. That is mainly due to the capacity of changing the climate at a global level. The new factories produced many gases some of the m global warming gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
The increase on the earth’s temperature has been startling.
As we can see the major increase in the earth’s global temperature started since 1910. The industrial revolution also started a new wave of colonialism seeking more raw materials, like minerals or wood, for the recent formed industries, which led to a massive destruction of ecosystems contributing to a big reduction of biodiversity together with the commercial hunting of animals.
Global warming come to stay. It’s effects on our planet are long and deep and affect all the earth’s species among those humans. In many ways we are paying the prize of the abuse we inflict on the planet. However the damages that we are inflicting on the planet does not stop on Global Warming but extend to other domains. For instance the water pollution in rivers and lakes are enabling many fresh water reserves of being used, fresh water that is increasingly scarce these days. Pollution of the soils is causing the poisoning of some foods that can’t be consumed by humans. And because the air pollution not only causes Global Warming but also increases the risk of several diseases including cancer and respiratory system diseases. Another huge problem is the rise on sea levels that can reach 7 meters by the end of this century, in conservative predictions, which would make great damages on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people on the shoreline leading to a problem of environmental refugees because their houses are slowly engulfed by the water. This situation already happens on a small scale in some Pacific Islands however it will increased dramatically on the next decades affecting cities in all continents including in Europe. One of the most dramatic situations may happen in Bangladesh where the flood areas could increase by as much as 29% in the end of the century which would mean that a lot of the 171,000,000 inhabitants of the country would be affected forcing them to find new homes. In such a densely crowded country that would mean mass-immigration. Another problem of this rising sea levels is the destruction of many crops in those regions. The destruction of many forests also means that the water absorption is lower which leads to more frequent and more severe floods in rural areas.
Global warming projections until 2100:
Here we can see two things: Global warming in the next century is inevitable and it will be much faster than it was in this last century. The average of the projections predicts an increase in 3,5ºc in this century which would mean a far deeper effect on the planet affecting almost everything agriculture, rain patterns, temperature cycles, causing more severe droughts and wildfires and increasing global sea levels, the state of Florida per example will lose a lot of it’s territory). To avoid a catastrophe a strong and fast response is needed and because this is a worldwide problem it also needs a worldwide solution.
Since the 1970 that scientists consider human made Global Warming as a great problem even for our survival as a species. The Kyoto Protocol is a sign of this. It was sign in 1997and made effective on 2005 in a total of 84 countries. However it’s effects were limited with the United States didn’t signing and in 2011, Japan, Russia and Canada stated that they would not take on further Kyoto targets. An extension was made to the period (2012-2010). This shows that there are countries not willing to do enough to save this planet and this is also the case of some Kyoto countries that will fail by a long margin their goals related with pollution and greenhouse gases.
Government has developed other incentives to reduce greenhouse gases emission. One of the major is the Carbon Tax. It consists on a fee placed on greenhouse gas pollution. This can be done in several different forms as placing a surcharge on carbon-based fuels and other sources of pollution. Sweden uses it since 1991 cutting GHG emissions by 20 percent enabling the country to achieve is 2012 Kyoto target. It also didn’t affected significantly the country’s ability to grow, it grown more than 100% since 1991. Another option is the cap and trade system. In a cap and trade system the government puts a firm limit, on the overall level of GHG emissions from industry and reduces that cap year after year to reach a previously set pollution target. The government creates and distributes pollution quotas through an auction creating an incentive for firms to decrease their pollution levels. Firms that exceed their emissions quota have to buy unused quotas from other companies. Both mechanisms are effective but they must be adapted to the country’s reality.
Countries are also giving more importance to sustainable mobility as we can see by the support of electric mobility in many Western countries and also in Japan, South Korea and even China. Some electric outposts are already being put in cities like London or Oslo. Cities are also banning older cars on the city centers due to excessive GHG emissions. Some countries went even further on their goal to ensure a more sustainable mobility. On June Norwegian parliament announced that is working on a bill to ban the sales of all fuel base cars by 2025 while also committing with the objective of zero deforestation. This measure has a broad support amongst the Norwegian political spectrum. On August it was the turn of The Netherlands to herald the same objective. According to Dutch politician and Labour Party member Jan Vos: ‘We need to phase out CO2 emissions and we need to change our pattern of using fossil fuels if we want to save the earth’. These measures are definitely welcome however their applicability depends upon several factors such as the cost of electric cars, the density of charging points and the public transports network so they might be viable in Norway and The Netherlands in 2025 but not in other European countries that are lagging behind in this matter specially in the Southern and Eastern Europe. These and other measures are required to stop or at least slowdown the Global Warming process ensuring a better future to all the living beings.
Pedro Diogo, Economics Student
Disclaimer: This Post reflects solely the author’s opinion and do not represent the platform as a whole