Climate change and the paper tower of human civilisation


Climate change and the paper tower of human civilisation

BY Isidoros Karderinis

Sunday, February 16, 2020

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Climate change, that is the change of the global climate, and in particular the changes in meteorological conditions that extend on a large timescale, is a major global existential threat.

The causes of climate change are mainly identified in combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gasoline, natural gas, etc), which account for 50 per cent of total emissions in production, the use of synthetic chemicals, in poor protection of forest areas which contributes to the production of additional gases in the atmosphere, and, of course, to the greenhouse effect, conventional agriculture, and livestock farming, which account for some 15 per cent of emissions.

The greenhouse effect causes the increase of temperature of the planet primarily due to the tremendous increase in carbon dioxide, which has increased by 35 per cent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The lion's share in pollution of the atmosphere, with 50 per cent of all carbon dioxide, comes from Europe and North America. The poorest countries are the least responsible. However, the people who live in these countries will suffer more strongly from the consequences.

The expert scientists ring the danger bell and warn that if there is no urgent, globally coordinated action by political leaders, governments, industries, and citizens around the world the temperature of the planet is likely to rise above 2°Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels by 2060, and the increase could even reach 5°Celsius by the end of the 21st century. If this materialses it will make the lives of future generations problematic.

Such an increase in the temperature of our planet will have a devastating impact on nature, bringing about irreversible changes in many ecosystems and consequent loss of biodiversity; that is, all living organisms and species that make up life on the planet — animals, birds, fish, and plants. Many species are expected to disappear from areas that will be directly and severely affected by climate change.

Today, compared to 1850 — when recording data began — a temperature increase of 1.1°C is observed. So, it is of vital importance that the increase does not exceed 1.5°Celsius, because, as scientists estimate, beyond this crucial point there will be no way back.

Climate change, however, which is due to human activities, is a tangible ominous reality and is already adversely affecting our planet. The sectors responsible for the production of greenhouse gases are primarily the sector of energy production (units of production of electrical power, refineries), but also industrial activities, the modern means of transport (cars, airplanes, etc), and the activities of the primary production sector.

So, the extreme weather events, the uncontrolled fires in forests such as the Amazon that have been characterised as the "lung" of the planet, the heatwaves, the heavy rainfall, the prolonged droughts that create serious eating problems in the affected areas of the planet, and the very powerful hurricanes are becoming constantly more often and more intense, costing tens of thousands of lives every year and causing huge disasters.

The ice, and at the same time snow on the poles are melting, with the Arctic being the biggest victim to date. And, as the world's average sea level goes up, and there are more floods and the erosion of coasts and lowland coastal areas, we are bound to create environmental refugees. If this unfavorable development continues, areas such as the Netherlands and Venice will be at risk of being permanently lost under the sea waters as a kind of new Atlantis.

Climate change also increases the existing diseases worldwide and creates new ones, which can all lead to premature death. Too many diseases are particularly sensitive to temperature change. This includes communicable diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, encephalitis and dengue fever, but also eating disorders, mental illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, as well as respiratory diseases.

Climate change will also have negative impacts on economies, given the fact that the high temperatures undermine the productivity of most sectors, from the agricultural sector to processing. Valid scientists predict that, by the end of the century, global gross domestic product (GDP) will have fallen by 7.22 per cent from what it would have been without climate change.

Teenager Swedish activist against climate change Greta Thunberg has managed, in the most vigorous and loud way, to encourage debate over this huge problem among heads of state and government. She has also facilitated public dialogue in society, resulting in mobilising millions of people around the world, especially young people, who began to make demands of their governments to make immediate steps for the introduction of measures for confronting climate change. So Swedish Members of Parliament rightly suggested her for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thunberg is very right when she says that the measures being taken to reduce greenhouse gases and, above all, carbon dioxide are not sufficient. So what are the appropriate measures to be taken without delay to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and keep the temperature at +1.5°C?

The basic policies for resolutely mitigating the problem rest in promoting and utilising renewable energy sources (wind, solar, biomass, etc); enhancing energy efficiency; the drastic reduction in the exploitation of oil and gas deposits; the imposition of carbon taxes in order to limit the use of fossil fuels and thereby reduce significantly carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050 at the latest; the rapid reduction of emissions of methane, carbon black, and other short-lived pollutants that burden the climate; as well as the restoration and protection of ecosystems and, above all, forests.

The Paris Agreement, the first universal, legally binding agreement for the climate, was entered into force in 2016 with great optimism and manifest ambitions, despite the official US departure statement. It is among the biggest polluters. Four years have passed since then and there have been no substantial results. This raises serious questions as to whether there is really the political will to tackle this particularly threatening global problem.

In closing, I would like to emphasise that the effects of climate change will be so dramatic that human civilisation will be in danger of collapse as a paper tower. So, in the face of this extremely dangerous climate crisis, the citizens around the world should increase their mobilisation even further, and the political leaders need to finally stand up at the height of the circumstances and take, immediately, the necessary drastic measures before it is too late to reverse this unsustainable course and save the planet.


Isidoros Karderinis hails from Athens and is a novelist, poet and columnist. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines, and sites worldwide. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or


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