Heed President Macron's warning: There is no Planet B

Friday, June 15, 2018

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In April this year when French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the United States Congress, he raised the issue of America's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and, in a most effective use of phrase, brought attention to the danger the world faces from climate change.

“Let us face it, there is no Planet B,” President Macron said as he warned that “by polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying our biodiversity we are killing our planet”.

Our reflection on President Macron's address was influenced by an Associated Press report in yesterday's edition of this newspaper, which told us that the ice sheet in Antarctica is melting three times faster than before.

The report was drawn from a study by an international team of scientists published on Wednesday in the journal Nature: “From 1992 to 2011, Antarctica lost nearly 84 billion tons of ice a year (76 billion metric tons). From 2012 to 2017, the melt rate increased to more than 241 billion tons a year (219 billion metric tons).”

One of the study's 88 co-authors, Ms Isabella Velicogna from the University of California, was reported as saying that, while we should not be desperate, “We should be worried...that things are happening... faster than we expected.”

Another of the researchers, Mr Ian Joughin of the University of Washington, noted that part of West Antarctica, where most of the melting occurred, “is in a state of collapse”.

We are told that the study, which other experts are reported to have praised as authoritative, is the second of assessments planned every several years by a team of scientists working with NASA and the European Space Agency. Their mission, the AP report said, is to produce the most comprehensive look at what is happening to the world's vulnerable ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.

The scientists use 10 to 15 satellites, as well as ground and air measurements and computer simulations to study ice loss, thereby acquiring better data than would have come from single-measurement studies.

Scientists have warned that the ice loss in Antarctica alone can add about 16 centimetres to sea level rise by the end of the century. Add to that the fact that melting land glaciers elsewhere, including Greenland, are contributing to warmer seas and you get a clearer picture of the danger facing the planet.

Here in the Caribbean scientists have told us that the waters in the Gulf of Mexico are approximately 1.5 degrees warmer than what they were over the period 1980 to 2010. The upshot, as we have pointed out before in this space, is the potential for a stronger storms.

Last year, the Caribbean felt the full brunt of climate change with the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria within a two-week period. Many communities across the region are still recovering from the devastation both storms unleashed, even as we are now in the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

These weather events have a fiscal impact, whether they hit us directly or indirectly. That is why we encourage the authorities across the region to remain focused on maintaining and improving mitigation measures already in place.

At the same time, we again appeal to the large countries to reduce their environmental footprint in order to slow the pace of global warming.

This, after all, is the only home we all have.

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