IT IS TIME to get worked up by heat.
First and foremost, the Paris agreement sealed in conscience by 190 countries the world over — except the world’s top cop — strives to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions that the world’s polluters have recklessly been ejecting into the atmosphere since way, way back. The United States along with China have for decades now been at the apex of global pollution, their combined gas output accounting for much of what everybody else has been insufferably experiencing. How to bring down greenhouse gas emissions to well below 2 degrees Celsius is now the task of other countries, both industrialized and the developing.
As scientists the world over have been warning us, greenhouse gas in the earth’s atmosphere absorbs and emits radiation. Since the year 1750, man has produced a 40% increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels principally coal, oil, natural gas along with deforestation, soil erosion, and animal agriculture. What we have been enduring these recent years, simply termed as global warming, is causing indescribable havoc to our ecosystem biodiversity, putting at grave risk not just the economic livelihood of people worldwide, but the very survival of humankind.
In recent years, we have been experiencing the effects of global warming that comes from unchecked greenhouse gas emissions largely from coal-fueled economic activities. Sea levels are rising, threatening to erode islands and coastal areas, including the Philippines which now ranks among the most vulnerable in the world. Subtropical deserts are expanding. Arctic glaciers are beginning to melt down and ultimately disappear. Extreme weather events have become the new normal — heat wave, droughts, heavy rainfall with floods, heavy snowfall, killer-quakes whose strength and intensity have been suddenly on the rise.
In a recently published study by the journal Science Advances on a strategic part of the world, South Asia where one-fifth of the world’s population live (including us here in miniscule Philippines), it was found that heat humidity is presently rising to perilously threatening levels. The study warns us that South Asia may be facing in a few decades “summer heat waves with levels of heat and humidity that exceed what humans can survive without protection” if greenhouse gas emissions into the global atmosphere remain reckless and mired in greed.
The research is based on two climate models. One is a “business as usual” scenario in which little is done to contain climate change. The second is aimed at limiting temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius, the very goal that the Paris agreement has set as an iron-clad benchmark. The study is a first of its kind that has looked into the so-called “wet-bulb temperature”, which combines temperature, humidity, and the human body’s ability to cool down in response. The survivability threshold stands at 35 degrees Celsius. In a business-as-usual setting, the wet-bulb temperatures are projected to be alarmingly near the survivability threshold.
This finding would now seem to validate what scientists the world over have been telling us with fearsome certainty if the present level of greenhouse gas emissions continues. Accordingly, by 2047, the earth’s surface temperature would have reached a level predicted to push ocean levels further up, heat up temperatures beyond survival levels, and bring mankind to an irreversible fate: his own extinction. Yes, that year is 2047, a mere 30 years from now!
Clearly, the Paris accord represents a huge global effort by everyone to minimize man’s own folly throughout the ages. Singly and collectively, we have the task to do our share by the simple ways that can be done right here and now.
If we don’t take care of nature, it won’t take care of us, all of us. If we don’t work to manage our future well, if we don’t drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels through an energy mix of clean, unpolluting sources, if we don’t take the business of environmental cleanup seriously, nobody else will. Even our inheritors will never forgive us for surrendering that future in the hands of hotheads who want to be first among the unequal in their midst.
Getting heated up now to do our shared effort is better than getting boiled over later.