Sir David Attenborough has warned “The moment of crisis has come,” in efforts to tackle climate change.
It is as per the renowned naturalist and broadcaster that “we have been putting things off for year after year.”
“As I speak, southeast Australia is on fire. Why? Because the temperatures of the Earth are increasing,” he said.
In an exclusive coverage launch on the subject of climate change for the year, comments of Sir David came in a BBC News interview.
Climate change is one of several factors behind the Australian fires, Scientists say. Others talked about how forests are managed and natural patterns in the weather.
Sir David describes it as “palpable nonsense” for some politicians and commentators to suggest that the Australian fires had no link with the world becoming warmer than before. “We know perfectly well,” he said, it is the human activity which is behind the heating of the planet.
What does ‘the moment of crisis’ mean to Sir David?
He pointed out the fact that even if climate scientists are becoming more explicit about the urgency for a rapid response, the pace of international negotiations is languid. Recently, the climate talks held in Madrid last month were branded a disappointment by the British government, UN Secretary-General, and others.
Decisions on critical issues were discouraging, and Australia and Brazil and many others were accused of their efforts to dodge their commitments.
“We have to realise that this is not playing games,” Sir David said.
“This is not just having a nice little debate, arguments and then coming away with a compromise.
“This is an urgent problem that has to be solved and, what’s more, we know how to do it – that’s the paradoxical thing, that we’re refusing to take steps that we know have to be taken.”
How can it be done?
A reasonable chance for the world to avoid the most dangerous temperature rises in the future was explained by the UN climate science panel back in 2018.
As per the panel, emissions of the gases from power stations and factories, vehicles, and agriculture that are heating the planet needed to be almost halved by 2030.
However, just the opposite is happening.
Those gases are still releasing increasingly rather than slowing down, and the level of carbon dioxide, the vital gas, in the atmosphere is now far above that level ever experienced in human history.
As Sir David put it: “Every year that passes makes those steps more and more difficult to achieve.”
At this moment, why does it matter?
The year 2020 is seen as a vital opportunity to tackle climate change.
The UK is hosting COP26, what’s billed as a crucial UN summit in Glasgow in November. But before that, governments worldwide are under pressure to toughen their targets for reducing emissions as their current pledges do not go nearly far enough.
Assuming they are delivered as promised though there’s no guarantee of that, the global average temperature could still rise more than 3C at the end of this century, compared to pre-industrial levels.
The latest assessment by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals the chance of that danger.
A rise of anything above 1.5C would mean more severe coastal flooding, heatwaves, and damage to coral reefs as it suggests.
And the world has already warmed by just over 1C, the latest figures show.
So, what next?
Further heating looks inevitable as things appear.
“We’re already living in a changed world,” according to Professor Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading, a scientist whose global warming depictions have often gone viral on social media.
He uses bold colored stripes such as different shades of red for warmer temperature and blue for colder temperatures to reflect the level by which each year’s temperature remains above or below average.
The popular designs now adorn T-shirts, scarves, as well as a tram in Germany.
At the moment, dark red has been used by Prof Hawkins to denote the highest level of warming. However, regions like the Arctic Ocean have witnessed that maximum level year after year.
Prof Hawkins has to search for new colors as the scale of change found to be so grave.
“I’m thinking about adding dark purple or even black,” he told me, to convey future increases in temperature.
“People might think climate change is a distant prospect, but we’re seeing so many examples around the world, like in Australia, of new records and new extremes.”
What more is there on this year’s environmental agenda?
Whether we can stop harming the natural world is on the environmental agenda.
The year 2020 is also seen as potentially crucial for halting the damage caused to ecosystems from human activity, as most political attention will also be on climate change.
Sir David bluntly explained why this matters: “We actually depend upon the natural world for every breath of air we take and every mouthful of food that we eat.”
World leaders are being invited to the Chinese city of Kunming for a major conference on how to safeguard Nature.
One million species, including animals, insects, and plants are threatened with extinction in the coming decades, A landmark report last year warned.
According to a more recent study, nearly three-fourths of the land and more than two-thirds of the oceans had significantly altered by the growth of cities, the clearing of forests for farming, and the soaring demand for fish.
Prof Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum in London, a scientist who is also involved, says that by undermining essential habitats, “we’re hacking away at our safety net, we’re trashing environments we depend on.”
He mentioned the impact of everything from using palm oil in processed food and shampoo to the pressures that current fast fashion generated.
Many developed countries now understand the need for conservation. Prof Purvis says, “we’ve exported the damage to countries too poor to handle the environmental cost of what they’re selling to us.”
In October, a month before the UN climate summit in Glasgow, the conference in Kunming takes place that makes this year crucial for our relations with the planet.