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Another climate change warning we need to heed

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Last week's Special Report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should serve as another warning to the people who still scoff at the scientific reports of the harmful, irreversible consequences of global warming on the world.

The report highlights how the rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil, risk jeopardising food security on Earth.

Too few people, we believe, appreciate that the land plays a very important role in emitting and absorbing greenhouse gases. Hence, how land is used is a major causal factor in climate change. Land use is affected by human settlement, agriculture, deforestation and soil erosion, and those, in turn, affect the ability of land to absorb carbon.

The report, prepared by 108 scientists over a two-year period, reveals that land use accounts for 23 per cent of human greenhouse gas emissions.

Ms Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of one of three working groups that contributed to the 1,200-page report, stated that humans affect more than 70 per cent of ice-free land, and a quarter is already degraded.

The temperature of the air over land surface has risen by 1.53 O C since pre-industrial times, compared with a global rise of 0.87 O C during that period.

One of the most interesting observations in the report is that how land is used to produce food and what food is produced has an impact on climate change. The dietary patterns which exist now are not compatible with slowing global warning. The report suggested that changes in diet and a reduction in food waste could have a big impact on global carbon emissions. Indeed, if the whole world became vegan, it could cut greenhouse emissions by about eight billion tons annually — the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions of the US and India.

Meanwhile, food waste, we are told, accounts for 8-10 per cent of total human greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Every effort to slow global warming is a worthwhile endeavour. Some commendable programmes to counter the effects of climate change have been implemented in Jamaica, now we must build on those to secure the future.

We suggest the implementation of the various land use plans, which date back to the early 1970s, and enforcing the terms and conditions stipulated in building permits.

Also, we need to exercise more care in how land is used. For instance, we should stop converting the most fertile agricultural lands into residential communities. The loss of agricultural lands will only worsen Jamaica's increasing dependence on imported food. Our food security is such that Jamaica, we suspect, could not last more than a week without imported food.

In addition, we must try to preserve what is left of the watershed from those who disfigure and destroy our hillsides to enjoy a view of Kingston. At the same time, we must do more to protect gullies and riverbeds from indiscriminate dumping and squatting.

Also, we must think long-term and preserve as much of the Cockpit Country as is possible, because it is fundamental to the country's ecosystem, weather and quality of the environment.