We can no longer delude ourselves over climate crisis


World Meteorological Organisation secretary general Petteri Taalas at a news conference to launch a state of global climate report at the UN in Geneva. Photo: Reuters


“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

Those were the words spoken by Neil Armstrong on his momentous moon mission.

Reading the latest World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report might leave us all feeling very, very small, especially as today is international Earth Day.

Deadly floods, droughts and heatwaves redolent of the Old Testament have again created havoc for millions of people.

It is a grim outlook as global oceans heat and acidity levels hit record highs.

Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice and European Alps glaciers reached record low amounts. Unfortunately, this is now a pattern.

Sea level is rising at double the rate it did in the 1990s, according to WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas.

The recognition that we must live the change rather than merely talk about it is dawning, and not a moment too soon. “Unfortunately these negative trends in weather patterns and all of these parameters may continue until the 2060s” despite efforts to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases because of the pollution already spewed, Mr Taalas warned.

We need to act, and quickly. Next week in the EU parliament, there will be a drive to vote in favour of setting a 2030 methane-reduction target before 2026.

New criteria for oil and gas companies to repair leaks – risking a ban from the market if they fail to do so – are also mooted. Governments are coming to terms with the realisation goals must be ambitious in their aims and aggressive in their implementation.

The past eight years have been the hottest on record globally. Ireland, the UK, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand all had the hottest years on record.

Developing countries, which are the least to blame for climate change, are unjustly suffering most as the scorching, arid weather further diminishes harvests and accelerates food insecurity.

“The good news would be that we would be able to phase out this negative trend and even reach the 1.C limit,” Mr Taalas said,

By adopting the more ambitious climate plans from G7 countries, the world can still meet the 2015 Paris temperature target.

“One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken,” Leo Tolstoy wrote.

But we can no longer delude ourselves. That link has never been more threatened.

The switch to sustainable living and embracing renewables is now a moral imperative for governments and individuals alike.

We still have a chance. Yet what once were choices are now imperatives. Rescuing the planet is not something we can wait for – it is something we have a responsibility to achieve.