Climate change mitigation is an exigency that must be urgently acted upon if the rate of global warming and its resulting negative effects are to be slowed down. 

The threat of climate change on whole livelihoods across the globe can never be overstated, as it is real, being a point of reflection as we enter 2021- calling all of us to action.

We are coming out of 2020 which was a very difficult year, a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, our lives as we know them suddenly changed in response to the pandemic which has ravaged whole economies and health systems; its devastation including the death of loved ones, global estimates being at a chilling1.83 million people dead. 

However, the pandemic reminded us of our common humanity, the power of the human spirit when we work together in crisis situations, necessitating an audit of our response systems in place and how they effectively deal with urgent unplanned for catastrophes or disasters.

I would, therefore, like to argue here that when it comes to climate change, there is still hope for humanity – each individual and nation can play a positive role and save the planet for the sake of posterity – future generations. 

The warning of Covid-19 and the harsh reality over the past months, even as a vaccine has now been found, should be a lesson in preparedness when it comes to the projected negative impact of the climate crisis in the future.

From saving the Amazon Rain-forest, to preserving coral reefs, investing in renewable energy, assisting women farmers in the developing world, the list is endless of what can be done to secure a sustainable, healthy future for generations to come.

This is against a backdrop of recent warnings by scientists of the imminent ‘untold suffering due to the climate crisis’ - in this regard examples drawn globally painting a very gloomy picture.

Since the industrial revolution, burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas is by far the biggest contributor to global warming and climate change, at 52% of greenhouse emissions. Research shows that in just over 200 years, the worldwide use of fossil fuels has grown exponentially to over 300 fold. This is not a ‘hoax’ but the sad reality.

This conversation can’t continue without building a nexus between the climate crisis and capitalism or the neo-liberal agenda, with leading academics, which include Naomi Klein arguing that, “the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.”

For the climate not to collapse, what is needed is an end to “unfettered expansion” of the economy and unbridled use of natural resources. By extension this means that we can’t fight global poverty, uplift the lives of the poor or marginalized especially women and children without facing capitalism head-on and its contribution towards the climate crisis.

The Paris Climate Agreement, an environmental pact agreed on by most nations of the world commits to limit global warming to below 2 degrees. 

The 195 nations who signed to the historic pact agreed among others, ‘to work to achieve a leveling-off of global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to become carbon neutral no later than the second half of this century. To achieve these objectives, 186 countries—responsible for more than 90 percent of global emissions—submitted carbon reduction targets, known as “intended nationally determined contributions”.

The second biggest emitter of CO2 after China, the United States in 2018 alone, reportedly contributed 5.41 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

In 2017 USA under ‘Climate Change denier’ President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement, however, his successor President-elect Joe Biden, has pledged to rejoin the agreement with an ambitious proposal of $1.7 trillion investment, meant to lead the country to a net-zero by 2050, recapturing or removing as much carbon as it emits.

Why must we act?

The consequence of global warming has resulted in the Arctic region experiencing extreme wild fires, shrinking ice and snow cover, because it is heating up at twice the rate of the rest of the world. The danger according to scientists with the university of Alaska, is that, the “warming has cascading effects elsewhere, raising sea levels, influencing ocean circulation and, scientists increasingly suggest, playing a role in extreme weather.”

Furthermore, tropical cyclones are also another product of human induced global warming, the most recent being Tropical Chalane which hit, Madagascar, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, over the Christmas period. While the impact was not as devastating to human livelihood as did cyclone Idai the threat of global warming and the possibility of more intense and damaging cyclones can’t be disregarded.

According to experts, tropical cyclones are storms that develop in tropical oceans at least 5-30 latitude north or south of the equator, where sea temperatures are at least 27C. Strong tropical storms, which are known as “hurricanes” in the North Atlantic and the central and North Pacific, “typhoons” in the northwest Pacific and simply “tropical cyclones” in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. 

These examples are just microcosmic of the whole global outlook of the impact of the climate crisis, and each of us has a role to play to mitigate its impact and save mother earth.

Grace Kwinjeh, Zimbabwean living in Belgium.