limate change is becoming an ever greater threat to people and nature. Most recently, massive forest fires and flood disasters have shown us that things are also getting uncomfortable in the global North. Yet forest fires and flood disasters are direct consequences of man-made climate change. Future Earth, an international research network for sustainability, makes this clear in its report "Our Future on Earth, 2020".
The report presents the results of a survey of 222 international scientists. Five reasons emerged that we should take a closer look at:
- Extreme weather conditions
- a serious loss of biodiversity and collapse of ecosystems
- food crises
- water crises
- inadequate management or mitigation of climate change
According to the scientists, it will be these 5 problems that pose a lasting threat to "planetary health".
The term "planetary health" describes the health of the Earth as an ecosystem in connection with its inhabitants.
The report emphasizes that the real danger lies not in the individual threats themselves, but in the mutual reinforcement and triggering of these threats. Here we can confidently return to the example given at the beginning. Forest fires are not the result of a dry summer, but a combination of years of drought, extreme heat and lost vegetation. This is because trees and shrubs also protect a forest from excessive heat.
It is therefore important that these issues are not considered and tackled in isolation, as is so often the case, but that they are all tackled at once. Proposals such as that of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to cut down the forest as a precautionary measure are not really sufficient. Although nothing can burn where there is no forest, this would gradually turn our planet into a huge desert.
Will humans still be able to live on earth in the future?
This question is of course difficult to answer. However, it is safe to say that we must all pull together to protect planetary health. But in addition to all the acute threats, the report also deals with other environmental and human issues, especially the potential that lies in the technology sector. Much of the technology that already exists is used for consumer purposes and market analysis. All to drive economic growth. However, according to the report, no sector has such potential to become more sustainable than the technology sector. This is increasingly about reducing electricity consumption, but also about using new technologies that make it easier for people to live in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. For example, people could optimize the energy efficiency of their house or apartment while also keeping an eye on their own CO₂ emissions. High-rise buildings can be used for vertical farming, providing food directly in the city with (almost) no transportation.
With sustainable technology and development in this area, it will most likely be possible by 2030 to reduce the 7 million people who die each year as a result of poor air quality by two thirds.
Climate change is a problem of modern times
A good 100 years ago, melting polar ice caps and burning forests were not a relevant issue. This is because it was the great economic boom of the second half of the 20th century that increased the pressure on the earth's ecosystems enormously. A rapid expansion of agricultural land as well as excessive mining led to massive deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
Telling people in Europe about a deforested rainforest in Indonesia at best creates pity and encourages a few donations, but unfortunately does not make the problem real. It is simply too far away. That is why we must look for a common denominator that affects everyone:
Because, in addition to all the tragedy that the forest fires have brought with them, they have shown one thing. Life-threatening climate disasters do not stop at economically strong nations. On the contrary, there was suddenly a real threat to health and life. It has shown us that the climate is a serious issue that will sooner or later come knocking on our door.
The focus on health makes the issue more tangible and personal for everyone. It highlights how tackling the threats can be a win-win-win for everyone. Humanity, the planet, and the economy.
In conclusion, even though climate disasters often happen far away, it is and remains an international issue. Australia is not solely to blame for the forest fires, it is a result of years of ignorance on the part of many nations, especially those in the Global North.