Climate change: The night is dark and full of terrors

The latest World Meteorological Organization (WMO) State of the Climate report for Latin America and the Caribbean is cause for great concern, especially given the heat wave now wreaking havoc in Europe and sections of the United States.

Quite frankly, the report reiterates what we already know: that the effects of global warming are steadily placing our planet at great risk. The fresh warning, though, is necessary as governments, particularly in developed nations, appear to be waffling on implementing the Paris Agreement, which set the goal of limiting end-of-century warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and preferably not beyond 1.5 °C.

The WMO report released Friday stated that ecosystems, food and water, human health and welfare were all taking a battering.

Sea levels are rising at a faster rate in this region than globally, a phenomenon that will continue to affect coastal livelihoods, tourism, health, food, energy, and water security, particularly in small islands and Central American countries, it said.

The report also made note of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season which spawned 21 named storms, the third-highest number on record, as well as extreme rainfall that caused hundreds of fatalities and destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Additionally, the WMO reported that the Amazon rainforest in Brazil lost 22 per cent more forest area in 2021 than the previous year, contributing to the highest deforestation rates since 2009.

That, the report noted, is "a blow for both the environment and climate change mitigation" as the Amazon provides oxygen-producing and carbon-trapping functions that are crucial not only for the region but for the world.

Add to that the so-called mega drought in central Chile that has been running for at least 13 years, and the fact that glaciers in the tropical Andes have lost more than 30 per cent of their area in less than 50 years, increasing the risk of water scarcity in many regions, and you get a picture of the threat facing us in this region.

In Europe, the World Health Organization on Friday reported that the heat wave, with temperatures climbing to more than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), has caused more than 1,700 deaths on the Iberian peninsula alone. Wildfires have so far destroyed homes, infrastructure and crops, leaving many communities desolate.

Here, in our part of the world, Mr Mario Cimoli of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has noted that worsening climate change, compounded by the impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, have "stalled decades of progress against poverty, food insecurity and the reduction of inequality in the region".

Many countries, notably small island developing states, are not in a position to absorb an exacerbation of those conditions. It is therefore incumbent on governments to ensure that policies designed to tackle climate change are in fact implemented. And just as important, citizens of all countries need to do all that they can to mitigate, or better, eliminate the effects of global warming.

The signals are ominous. Every human being, therefore, needs to bear in mind, and accept the fact, that there is no Planet B.

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