Monday 19 August 2019

Editorial: 'Human hunger for more puts our world in jeopardy'

'Yesterday we got another severe warning on how climate change poses an immediate threat to the security of our food supply' (stock photo)
'Yesterday we got another severe warning on how climate change poses an immediate threat to the security of our food supply' (stock photo)
Editorial

Editorial

We know climate change is not a far-off future problem to be confronted at a time of our convenience. Rising temperatures, increased rain and more extreme weather events are a persistent reminder of the urgency in meeting our responsibilities.

Yesterday we got another severe warning on how climate change poses an immediate threat to the security of our food supply. Its impact on crops and livestock is especially alarming.

We routinely ignore warnings on how what we do makes a difference; yet there is a paralysis of indecision when it comes to precisely what kind of difference we are prepared to make.

The latest United Nations report leaves no room for debate. It puts food front and centre.

And we no longer have a choice but must act now.

How food is produced and consumed contributes massively to global warming.

"It's obvious that in the West we're eating far too much," said Professor Pete Smith, lead author of the study. The UN also notes how modern farming methods have made food more expensive, scarcer and less nutritious. The impact of intensive farming is driving the population boom and the demand for food. A century ago there were 1.9 billion people; today there are 7.7 billion.

In terms of climate change, the land has been virtually weaponised; where once it captured carbon, today - due to changing farming practices - it has become a major source of greenhouse gases.

It is quite something to think the West wastes one third of its food while more than 800 million of the world's population experiences food poverty. Simply cutting carbon emissions from cars and industry will no longer be enough unless we also change the way we produce our food, the UN cautions. This country consistently falls behind our EU counterparts due to a serial failure to cut emissions. Last year Climate Action Network Europe's latest report - analysing climate action performance - urged us to be more ambitious in meeting Paris Climate Agreement commitments.

But there has been little change in shaking off our shameful status as "laggards" in this regard.

Philip Kearney, who chaired An Taisce's climate committee, noted: "The Government has continued to trumpet supposed exceptionalism and push for loopholes in EU legislation which serves to undermine EU-wide progress on climate change."

There has always been a reluctance to make a connection between our behaviour and its impact on the planet. Globally, governments also suffer from "green blindness", preferring to balance books and maintain employment than worry about choking the Earth's lungs.

The American ecologist Guy McPherson cut to the chase on this very point: "If you really think that the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money."

The UN's verdict is unambiguous: We truly are in injury time.

Irish Independent

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