Il-kosta: fi stat ta’ emerġenza

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, l-International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tal-Ġnus Magħquda, ippubblika rapport dwar l-ibħra u t-tibdil fil-klima. Ġejna avżati għal darb’ oħra bil-konsegwenzi tat-tibdil fil-klima u l-impatti li ser jirriżultaw bħaż-żieda fil-livell tal-baħar.

Ir-rapport ifakkarna ukoll fil-ħtieġa urġenti li jkunu indirizzati b’mod adegwat l-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju sa mhux iktar tard mis-sena 2050.

Il-Kummissarji Ewropej Miguel Arias Cañete (Azzjoni Klimatika u Enerġija), Karmenu Vella (Ambjent, Affarijiet Marittimi u Sajd) u Carlos Moedas (Riċerka, Xjenza u Innovazzjoni) kienu sodisfatti bir-rapport, għax jikkunsidraw li dan hu tfakkira lill-komunità globali biex din taġixxi u tindirizza t-tibdil fil-klima u l-impatti tagħha fuq l-ibħra malajr kemm jista’ jkun. Fi stqarrija tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja li t-tlett Kummissarji ħarġu nhar l-Erbgħa emfasizzaw li l-konklużjonijiet tar-rapport huma ċari: “iż-żieda fit-temperatura globali ikkawżata mill-bniedem qed tkun il-kawża ta’ tibdil drastiku fl-ibħra. Mhux biss qed togħla t-temperatura, imma l-ibħra qed isiru iktar aċidużi u fihom inqas ossiġnu. Il-livell tal-baħar qed jogħla ħafna iktar milli kien antiċipat.”

Il-Kapitlu numru 4 tar-rapport għandu jkun ta’ interess partikolari għal Malta. Huwa intitolat “Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities”.

Il-medja globali taż-żieda fil-livell tal-baħar qed tiżdied b’rata li qed taċċellera. Mill-osservazzjonijiet li saru jirriżulta li din żdiedet minn 1.4 millimetri fis-sena fuq il-perjodu 1901-90 għal 3.6 millimetri fis-sena tul il-perjodu 2005-15. Ir-rapport jirreferi għal diversi studji li saru biex ikun imkejjel kemm tista’ tkun din iż-żieda fil-livell tal-ibħra fil-futur. Lil hinn mill-2050 hu diffiċli li jsiru projezzjonijiet u dan minħabba li x-xenarju dwar l-emmissjonijiet u t-tibdil fil-klima assoċjat mhux magħruf biżżejjed. L-anqas mhu magħruf kif ser tkun ir-reazzjoni tas-silġ akkumulat fl-Antartiku f’dinja b’temperatura għola. Bl-informazzjoni li hawn il-projezzjonijiet li saru jindikaw li l-livell tal-ibħra jista’ jiżdied b’madwar 110 ċentimetri sa tmiem dan is-seklu. Mhux eskluż li meta jitlestew studji addizzjonali li għadhom għaddejjin din iż-żieda tista’ titla’ sa 200 ċentimetru.

Dawn il-projezzjonijiet huma ibbażati fuq osservazzjonijiet xjentifiċi flimkien mat-tagħrif akkumulat minn studji dwar l-impatti tal-klima fuq l-ibħra, iż-żieda fit-temperaturi globali flimkien mar-ritmu li bih qed idub is-silġ akkumulat. Minkejja din l-inċertezza dwar dak li ser jiġri kif jidher mill-varjazzjoni mhux żgħira fil-projezzjonijiet dwar kemm u meta jista’ jogħla l-livell tal-ibħra, id-deċiżjonijiet ta’ ippjanar konnessi ma dak li hu meħtieġ biex tkun protetta l-kosta huma meħtieġa li jittieħdu illum.

Dan jinkludi d-deċiżjonijiet meħtieġa dwar infrastruttura ta’ importanza kritika kif ukoll xogħolijiet għall-ħarsien tal-kosta li hu meħtieġ li jkunu tlestew qabel ma jibda jseħħ ix-xenarju li l-baħar jogħla fil-livell b’mod sostanzjali.

L-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar hu ta’ theddida għall-komunitajiet residenzjali mal-kosta kif ukoll għall-parti l-kbira tal-infrastruttura turistika u marittima.

Iż-żoni kostali tagħna huma żviluppati b’mod esaġerat u fihom hemm jgħixu numru mhux żgħir ta’ nies, b’densità esaġerata.

Il-faċilitajiet u l-infrastruttura turistika huma ikkonċentrati tul il-parti tal-kosta li hi kważi fil-livell tal-baħar b’mod li l-inqas żieda fil-livell tal-baħar jista’ jkollu effett diżastruż. Għal stat gżira bħal Malta l-infrastruttura marittima hi kruċjali: anke din qegħda fil-livell tal-baħar. Bħala konsegwenza ta’ dan l-iċken ċaqlieq fil-livell tal-baħar jista’ jkollu effett diżastruz fuq il-gżejjer Maltin jekk ma nippreparawx ruħna sewwa mhux biss għall-iktar possibiltajiet realistiċi imma anke għall-agħar possibilitajiet.

X’ser nagħmlu? Qegħdin nippreparaw ruħna għal din l-emerġenza li qed tiżviluppa wara biebna?

It-tweġiba ovvja hi le: ma jidher xejn li jindika li qed nippreparaw ruħna. Il-problema ewlenija għalina hi li anke b’zieda żgħira fil-livell tal-baħar il-faċilitajiet mal-kosta jistgħu jisparixxu. Neħtieġu viżjoni ċara fuq kif ser naffrontaw it-tibdil fil-klima.

Il-Ministeru tat-Turiżmu iktar hu interessat biex joqgħod jilgħab bir-ramliet artifiċjali li malajr jitkaxkru mill-mewġ mal-ewwel maltempata qalila kif ġara fil-Bajja tal-Balluta riċentement. Man-natura ma tilgħabx! L-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, min-naħa l-oħra iktar hi interessata li taqdi lil dawk li jridu jistagħnew mil-koxxa u fl-ebda ħin ma bdiet tagħti kas tat-tibdil fil-klima fid-deċiżjonijiet tagħha.

Neħtieġu kosta ħajja u vibranti. Nistgħu nipproteġu ‘l kosta billi nħejju ruħna għal din l-emerġenza tal-klima li qed tiżviluppa quddiem għajnejna. Jekk ser nibqgħu ma niċċaqilqux it-tort ikun tal-ġenerazzjoni tagħna u ta’ ħadd iktar.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 29 ta’ Settembru 2019

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Our coastline: in a state of emergency

Earlier this week the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its report on the oceans and climate change. We are once more warned of the consequences of climate change and the impacts of rising sea levels, as well as of the urgent need to have decarbonisation in place by not later than the year 2050.

EU Commissioners Miguel Arias Cañete for Climate Action and Energy, Karmenu Vella for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Carlos Moedas for Research, Science and Innovation have welcomed the report, considering it a wake-up call for the global community to tackle climate change and its impacts on oceans as soon as possible. In an EU Commission press statement issued on Wednesday, they emphasised the fact that the conclusions of the new report are clear: “human-induced global warming is drastically changing our oceans. They are heating up, becoming more acidic, contain less oxygen. Sea levels are rising much faster than anticipated.”

Chapter 4 of the report should be of particular interest to Malta. It is entitled “Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities”.

Global Mean Sea Level is rising at an accelerating rate. From observations made it results that this has increased from 1.4 mm per year over the period 1901-90 to 3.6 mm per year over the period 2005-15. The report refers to various studies regarding the projected sea-level rise. Beyond 2050 is unchartered territory due to the uncertainties in emission scenarios and the associated climate changes and the response of the Antarctic ice sheet in a warmer world. The relevant projections, however, still point towards a possible sea-level rise of 1.10 metres towards the end of the century. It is not excluded that this projection may be increased upwards to as much as 2 metres, once additional studies are concluded.

These projections are based on scientific observations and the accumulated knowledge from studies on the impacts of climate change on the oceans, notably the increase in global temperatures as well as the resulting melting of glaciers and ice sheets.

Despite this uncertainty associated with such a wide range of the projections made, decisions on coastal adaptation planning are required to be made today. This would include decisions on critical infrastructure and coastal protection work which need to be put in place in anticipation of the most likely scenarios.

Rising sea levels are a threat to coastal residential areas as well as to most of our tourism and maritime infrastructure.

Our coastal areas are over-developed and densely populated. Tourism facilities and infrastructure is concentrated along the low-lying areas of the coast. For an island state the maritime infrastructure is crucial. As a consequence, sea-level rise may, even in the medium term, have a devastating impact on the Maltese islands unless we are adequately prepared – not just for the likely scenarios but also for the worst case scenario.

Where do we go from here? Are we prepared for this developing emergency which is unfolding before us?

The answer is an obvious “no”. We are not prepared. There are no signs that any sort of preparation is in hand. The basic problem we have to face is that even in the medium term our coast may be wiped out together with all its infrastructure. We lack a clear vision of how to deal with climate change.

The Tourism Ministry is only interested in playing around with artificial sandy beaches which will be quickly vacuumed up and reclaimed by the sea during the first storm – as was clearly demonstrated in Balluta Bay during the last stormy season. The Planning Authority is bent on facilitating “making hay while the sun shines” and has at no point factored climate change in its policies and decisions.

A healthy and vibrant coastline is essential and we can only protect it by being prepared for the developing climate emergency. If we do not we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 29 September 2019

Ġustizzja klimatika: s-sehem tagħna

L-istat attwali tal-emerġenza klimatika li qed tiżviluppa madwarna hu l-effett akkumlat ta’ snin ta’ emissjonijiet ta’ karbonju. Kontinwament qed inżidu ma dawn l-impatti akkumulati tant li l-projezzjonijiet tal-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) jindikaw illi l-miri tas-Summit ta’ Pariġi dwar it-Tibdil fil-Klima li sar fl-2015 mhumiex ser jintlaħqu bil-kbir.

L-emissjonijiet globali tal-karbonju tant żdiedu li flok ser nillimitaw iż-żieda fit-temperatura għal grad u nofs Celsius fuq it-temperatura tal-era pre-industrijali, resqin lejn żieda ta’ madwar id-doppju ta’ dan sa l-aħħar tas-seklu kurrenti: ċjoe żieda ta tlett gradi Celsius.

L-istati z-żgħar li huma ġżejjer joqgħodu fihom iktar minn 65 miljun persuna. Ilu ż-żmien issa li dawn ġew meqjusa bħala l-iktar vulnerabbli minħabba l-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima. Kull stat gżira qiegħed fuq quddiem nett biex ikun minn tal-ewwel biex ilaqqat dawn l-impatti, u dan minkejja li storikament, fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom dawn kienu fost l-anqas li kkontribwew għat-tibdil fil-klima. Prinċipalment qed nirreferi għall-istati gżejjer żgħar li hemm fil-Paċifiku li ġeneralment mhumiex ‘il-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan il-fatt dawn ser ikunu fost ta’ l-ewwel li jlaqqtu d-daqqa tal-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar, bla dubju wieħed mill-konsegwenzi ewlenin tat-tibdil fil-klima.

Meta nitkellmu dwar l-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar ma nkunux qed nitkellmu b’mod tejoretiku dwar il-futur. Fl-Oċejan Paċifiku din hi r-realtà tal-lum.

Ħarsu pereżempju lejn il-gżejjer Maldives, magħrufa għall-bajjiet ramlin bojod li ma jispiċċaw qatt u li matul l-2018 żaruhom miljun u nofs turist. Il-Maldives huma fost iktar pajjiżi ċatti fid-dinja. 80% tal-art mhiex iktar minn metru ‘l-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar.

L-ebda parti tal-gżejjer mhi iktar minn tlett metri mil-livell tal-baħar. L-istudji li saru jindikaw li sa mis-snin ħamsin il-baħar madwar il-gżejjer Maldives għola bejn 0.8 u 1.6 ta’ millimetru fis-sena. B’din ir-rata hu stmat li sa tmiem dan is-seklu 77% tal-gżejjer Maldives ikunu taħt il-livell ta’ wiċċ il-baħar.

Il-ġzejjer Maldives, ċentru turistiku rinomat, jistgħu jkunu ‘l-bogħod wisq għal uħud biex jifhmu is-sinfikat ta’ dak li qed iseħħ fil-present. Imma hi ukoll esperjenza li mhux ser iddum ma tinfirex mal-erbat irjieh tad-dinja .

It-tibdil fil-klima jeffettwa direttament lill-komunitajiet mal-kosta kif ukoll l-infrastruttura kollha żviluppata mat-tul kollu tal-kosta. Il-gżejjer kollha, waħda wara l-oħra, ser ilaqqtuha.

Malta mhix ser tkun xi eċċezzjoni. Il-gżejjer Maltin, bħall-gżejjer kollha, ser jintlaqtu sewwa minn dawn l-impatti klimatiċi.

Probabbilment li din hi r-raġuni għaliex, skond Eurobarometer, il-Maltin huma l-iktar imħassba fost l-Ewropej u jqisu it-tibdil fil-klima bħala materja ta’ serjetà kbira.

Naħseb li wasal iż-żmien li din li tidher li hi sensittività għall-impatti tat-tibdil fil-klima nittrasformawha f’azzjoni konkreta.

Nistgħu per eżempju nistabilixxu l-mira li nnaqqsu nofs il-karozzi privati li għandna llum fit-toroq tagħna fi żmien għaxar snin? Ovvjament ma jkollniex bżonn it-toroq kollha li qed jippjanaw li jibnu kieku kellna nippruvaw inwettqu mira bħal din.

Dan jista’ jsir bla wisq diffikultà meta nqiesu li nofs il-vjaġġi li nagħmlu bil-karozzi tagħna fil-gżejjer Maltin huma vjaġġi għal distanzi qosra (twal inqas minn ħames kilometri) u li jdumu mhux iktar minn kwarta. Li jonqos hu ftit rieda politika. Flok ma noqgħodu nistennew lil ħaddieħor, f’pajjiżi oħra ‘l-bogħod, biex jieħdu azzjoni ħalli jonqsu l-impatti fuq il-klima wasal iż-żmien li naħsbu ftit dwar dak li nistgħu nagħmlu aħna stess u ngħaddu biex nagħmluh.

Il-problema tal-gżejjer Maldives hi il-problema tagħna wkoll. Konna fost dawk li taw kontribut biex inħolqot il-problema u jeħtieg ukoll il-kontribut tagħna għas-soluzzjoni tagħha.

Din hi t-triq li twassal lejn ġustizzja klimatika.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 15 ta’ Settembru 2019

Climate Justice: our role

The current state of the developing climate emergency is the cumulative effect of years of carbon emissions.

We continuously add to this accumulated impact to the extent that projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that the targets of the Paris 2015 Climate Change Summit will be substantially exceeded. The current global carbon emissions are such that instead of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the temperature prevalent in the pre-industrial era, we are moving towards double this increase by the end of this century, that is 3 degrees Celsius.

Small island states, home to more than 65 million people, have long been recognised as being especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Each island state is on the frontline of such impacts even though, historically, most of them have been the lowest contributors to climate change. I am referring mostly to the Pacific small island states which are generally low-lying and as a result, the first port of call of the rising sea level – one of the major consequences of climate change.

Rising sea levels is not the theoretical future. In the Pacific Ocean it is the real present. Consider, for example the Maldives, known for its extensive sandy beaches frequented by around 1.5 million tourists in 2018. The Maldives is also considered to be the flattest country on earth, with 80 per cent of its land area no higher than one metre above sea level and none of the rest no more than 3 metres above sea level. Studies indicate that, since the 1950s, the sea level around the Maldives has risen between 0.8 and 1.6 millimetres annually. At this rate it is estimated that, by the end of this century, 77 per cent of the Maldives current land area will be below sea level.

The Maldives, a tourism haven, may be too far away for some to grasp the significance of what is happening right now. It is, however, experiencing what will soon be the reality around the whole globe.

The coastal communities and the coastal infrastructure will be the hardest hit by climate change and al islands, around the world will be hit.

Malta will not be an exception; along with all other island states, the Maltese Islands will have to bear the brunt of this impact of climate change.

This could be the reason why, according to Eurobarometer, the Maltese are among the most concerned Europeans and consider climate change a very serious issue.

Isn’t it about time that this “apparent” sensitivity to the impacts of climate change is translated into concrete action?

How about, for example, setting a target of reducing the number of private cars on our roads by 50 per cent over the next ten years? We would obviously not need all the new roads being built, should we start seeking the best way to achieve such a target.

Given that it is estimated that 50 per cent of our private car journeys all around the Maltese Islands are for short distances (less than five kilometres) and of a duration that does not exceed 15 minutes this target would be easily achievable if there is some political will. Instead of waiting for others in faraway places to take action to reduce the impacts of climate change, it is about time that we start planning what we can do ourselves, and then proceed with doing it.

The problem of The Maldives is our problem too. We have contributed to its creation and consequently we must also contribute to its solution.

This is the path of climate justice.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 15 September 2019

Is-silġ qed idub

Is-silġ qed idub kullimkien. Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fl-Iżlanda saret kommemorazzjoni tal-glaċier Okjökull li dab wara madwar 700 sena li ilu jeżisti.

Kien hemm ċerimonja ta’ tifkira u twaħħlet plakka bi twissija għall-futur li tgħid: “Okjökull hu l-ewwel glaċier fl-Iżlanda li spiċċa. Matul il-mitejn sena li ġejjin il-glaċieri ewlenin li għandna ser imisshom l-istess xorti. Dan il-monument jirrikonoxxi li nafu x’qiegħed jiġri kif ukoll x’jeħtieġ li jsir. Intom biss tafu jekk għamilniehx.”

Din id-dedika tispiċċa bid-data taċ-ċerimonja u l-konċentrazzjoni attwali tad-dijossidju tal-carbonju fl-arja, 415 parti minn kull miljun.

Mappa ġeoloġika tal-1901 tal-Iżlanda tindika li dan il-glaċier kien ikopri area ta’ 38 kilometru kwadru. Issa spiċċa: dab u sparixxa fl-oċeani.

It-tibdil fil-klima qiegħed magħna. Illum diffiċli biex dan jitwaqqaf. It-tibdil fil-klima m’għadux xi eżerċizzju tejoretiku li jbassar il-futur: hu r-realtà li qed tiżviluppa quddiemna u li rridu niffaċċjaw.

Il-kommemorazzjoni simbolika “tal-mewt” tal-glaċier Iżlandiz hi twiddiba għal kulħadd: it-tibdil fil-klima teffettwa lil kulħadd, min mod u min ieħor. Iż-żieda fit-temperatura globali qed iddewweb il-glaċieri u l-icebergs. Dan iwassal biex jogħla l-livell tal-baħar u dan b’theddida serja għal kull attività fuq l-art li hi qrib tal-livell tal-baħar. L-effetti mhux ser ikunu biss mal-kosta, imma iktar ‘il-ġewwa ukoll.

Kontinwament naqraw kif ibliet kbar li qegħdin mhux wisq ‘il-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar qed jaħsbu u jitħassbu dwar kif jistgħu jilqgħu għal din it-theddida: ibliet bħal New York, Miami, Tampa, Boston, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Mumbai, Stokkolma, Buenos Aires, Dakar, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Cancun u bosta oħrajn jistgħu jisparixxu. Miljuni ta’ bnedmin jispiċċaw bla saqaf fuq rashom.

U f’Malta?

L-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar jeqred il-faċilitajiet mal-kosta, bit-turiżmu jaqla’ l-ikbar daqqa. Numru ta’ zoni residenzjali mal-kosta ukoll jistgħu jkunu effettwati: bħal Marsalforn, ix-Xlendi, San Pawl il-Baħar, l-Għadira, tas-Sliema, l-Gżira, Ta’ Xbiex, l-Msida, Birżebbuġa, Marsaskala u Marsaxlokk, flimkien ma partijiet minn lokalitajiet oħra lkoll jintlaqtu skont kemm jogħla l-livell tal-baħar.

Jiena infurmat li l-power station ta’ Malta f’Delimara qegħda madwar 4 metri ‘l-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar.

Żieda żgħira fil-livell tal-baħar tista’ tillimita l-ħsara għall-infrastruttura turistika u l-faċilitajiet kostali. Imma jekk iż-żieda fil-livell tal-baħar tkun waħda sostanzjali iz-zoni residenzjali mal-kosta, u bosta iktar, jista’ jkunu effettwati.

It-tbassir dwar kemm ser jogħla l-livell tal-baħar jiddependi fuq iż-żidiet reali fit-temperaturi. Fis-Summit dwar il-klima f’Pariġi kien hemm it-tama li ż-żieda massima fit-temperatura ma taqbizx il-1.5 gradi Celsius fuq it-temperatura pre-industrijali. Sfortunatament, illum, dan jidher li hu ħolm għax mexjin lejn żidied ferm ikbar fit-temperaturi.

It-tbassir minimu hu dwar żieda fl-għoli tal-baħar ta’ madwar 500 millimetru imma hemm il-possibiltà li dan jista’ jilħaq żieda fl-għoli ta’ anke 7 metri! Dan hu tbassir li qed ikun revedut kontinwament mill-komunità xjentifika u jiddependi miż-żidiet reali fit-temperaturi u projezzjonijiet reveduti.

Malta għandha interess (dirett) ovvju biex it-tibdil fil-klima jkun indirizzat, imma fl-istess ħin issegwi politika li twassal il-messaġġ ċar li tiġi taqa’ u tqum, ma jimpurtahiex. Eżempju ta’ dan huma l-proġetti infrastrutturali konnessi mat-toroq li ser iservu biss biex iżidu n-numru tal-karozzi fit-toroq. Iktar karozzi, iktar emissjonijiet: kontribut dirett ikbar għat-tibdil fil-klima.

Fejn diġa beda jinħass l-għoli fil-livell tal-baħar diġa sparixxew numru ta’ gżejjer (mhux abitati) fil-Paċifiku. Hemm gżejjer oħra mill-Fiji sal-gżejjer Marshall, mill-Maldives sal-Bahamas, Tuvalu, l-Kiribati u bosta oħrajn li qegħdin taħt theddida imminenti.

Anke Malta u Għawdex qegħdin fil-queue għax in-natura ma taħfira lil ħadd, ma timxix b’mod diskriminatorju. Ser tolqot lil kulħadd mingħajr eċċezzjoni.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 25 t’Awwissu 2019

Requiem for a glacier

Earlier this week, mourners gathered in Iceland to commemorate the loss of Okjökull, the glacier, which has “died” at the age of about 700.

Mourners fixed a plaque as a warning to the future stating: “Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our main glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”

The dedication, ends with the date of the ceremony and the current global concentration of carbon dioxide in the air – 415 parts per million.

A 1901 geological map of Iceland indicated that at that time this glacier had covered an area of 38 square kilometres. Now it is no more: it has melted and disappeared into the ocean.
Climate change is definitely happening: it is now almost unstoppable. It is no longer a theoretical prediction of the future – it is today’s reality which we must face head on.

The symbolic commemoration of the “death” of an Icelandic glacier is a warning: climate change hits all of us in one way or another. The global increase in temperature is melting glaciers and icebergs which will, in turn, increase the sea level and threaten low-lying land. This will have an impact not just along the coast but also further inland.

We constantly read how various low-lying countries are considering how they could face this threat. Cities such as New York, Miami, Tampa, Boston, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Mumbai, Stockholm, Buenos Aires, Dakar, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Cancun, (to name just a few) could vanish and millions of persons would be displaced.

What about Malta? A rising sea level could wipe out coastal facilities – tourism being the hardest hit. A number of coastal residential areas would also be considerably impacted: Marsalforn, Xlendi, St Paul’s Bay, Għadira, Sliema, Gżira, Ta’ Xbiex, Msida, Birżebbuġa, Marsaskala and Marsaxlokk, together with parts of other localities – would be hit with an intensity depending on the extent of the sea level rise.

I am informed that Malta’s power station at Delimara is at approximately four metres above sea level.

A small sea level rise could possibly limit damage to tourism infrastructure and coastal facilities but if the rise is substantial, it could hit the low-lying residential areas and possibly much more.

Projections for sea-level rise vary as they are dependent on the actual increase in global temperatures. The Paris Climate Summit had pinned its hopes on a maximum temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age. Unfortunately, this is now wishful thinking, as we are moving towards much higher temperature increases.

The minimum projection is for a rise in sea level of around 500 millimetres –  which could rise even to as much as seven metres! These projections are being constantly revised by the scientific community, depending on actual rise in temperature and revised projections.

Malta has an obvious direct interest in taming climate change and yet it follows policies which send out the clear message that it does not care. The current spending spree on the development of the road infrastructure is a case in point because it will only serve to increase the number of vehicles on our roads. More vehicles, more emissions: signifying an increased direct contribution to climate change.

The rise in sea level has already wiped out a number of uninhabited low-lying islands in the Pacific. Other island states – from Fiji to the Marshall Islands, the Maldives to the Bahamas, Tuvalu, Kiribati and many more – are under an imminent threat.

Even Malta and Gozo will have to join the queue as nature will not discriminate: it will hit all of us without exception.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: 25 August 2019

Planning for the foreseeable future

Human nature has always been preoccupied with the future. However, at times we tend not to realise that we mould a substantial part of the future through our actions today. Unfortunately, sometimes our actions today and the future we want, point towards completely different directions.

Our future is necessarily a common one, as explained in the 1987 report of the UN Commission on Environment and Development -, the Brundtland report – aptly entitled Our Common Future. Drafted by an international commission led by former Norwegian Socialist Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, this report placed sustainable development on the global discussion platform, emphasising that we are responsible not only for each other’s welfare today but also for that of future generations. We need to consider carefully that our actions today have a considerable impact and can possibly limit the choices that future generations would have to make.

The impact of our behaviour on the climate is one such example. The impact of climate change is causing havoc in weather patterns and consequently also impacting on all areas of human activity. The patterns and intensity of rainfall is unpredictable. Our road infrastructure never coped, and now it is getting worse.

Earlier this week The Guardian reported that the planet has just a five per cent chance of reaching the Paris climate goals. Rather than avoiding warming up by more than 2oC by the end of the century, it is more likely that Mother Earth will heat up to around 5oC beyond the pre-industrial era.

The predicted consequences are catastrophic. Another report published in April this year had informed us that there are worrying signs for Greenland ice sheet which covers 80 percent of its 1.7 million square kilometres surface area: it has been observed melting faster than ever before. On its own, this factor could potentially cause a rise of many meters in sea level – as many as seven metres.

This is certainly not the future we want. Any rise in sea level rise, even if minimal, would threaten the functionability of all coastal areas and facilities. It would also wipe out entire coastal communities and islands worldwide would disappear. It would be a future of climate- change refugees pushed to higher ground by a rising sea-level. This will not only have an impact low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean: it will also hit closer to home.
Take a look at and consider the places along the Maltese coast: Msida, Ta’ Xbiex, Pietá, Sliema, Marsaskala, Marsaxlokk, San Pawl il-Baħar, Burmarrad, Birżebbuġa, Marsalforn, Xlendi and many more.
Readers will remember the occasional rise in sea-level at Msida. In one such instant – on 11 May last year – the change in sea level was of more than a metre as a resulting flooding the roads along the coast. This phenomenon is known as seiche (locally referred to as “Il-Milgħuba”) and reported in this newspaper under the heading “Phenomenon: sea-water level rises in Msida, traffic hampered.” It also occurs at St George’s Bay in Birżebbuġa – on a small scale but on a regular basis, causing quite a nuisance to car users.

Now this phenomenon only occurs temporarily, yet it still substantially affects traffic movements when it does. Imagine if the rise in sea level rise is of a permanent nature?

Large parts of our coast are intensively developed – with roads and residential properties, as well as substantial sections of the tourism infrastructure and facilities. In addition, there is also the infrastructure of our ports which we have developed as a maritime nation over the centuries. All this points to the need for adequate planning to implement urgent adaptation measures in order to reinforce Malta’s coastal infrastructure. If we wait too long it may be too late.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 August 2017

F’Pariġi sar l-ewwel pass

Plan B

Nhar is-Sibt f’Pariġi rappreżentanti ta’ 200 pajjiż waslu fi ftehim dwar il-bidla fil-klima li ġie deskritt bħala wieħed ambizzjuz u li jagħti tama għall-futur. Bil-ftehim ta’ Pariġi ġie miftiehem li ż-żieda fit-temperatura ma taqbiżx b’iktar minn 2oC dik taż-żmien pre-industrijali fil-waqt li ser isiru sforzi biex possibilment iż-żieda l-anqas ma tasal sa 1.5oC.  Dan sar billi kull pajjiż intrabat individwalment biex jistabilixxi l-emmissjonijiet li jeħtieġ li jnaqqas biex jintlaħaq dan l-iskop.

Dawn l-ammont ta’ emissjonijiet ikunu reveduti perjodikament biex ikun assigurat li l-isforz ta’ kulħadd magħdud flimkien jgħin biex naslu għall-iskop komuni li jonqos it-tibdil fil-klima u l-impatti tiegħu fuq id-dinja.

Intlaħaq qbil li huwa meħtieġ investiment ta’ $100 biljun dollar biex ikunu mgħejjuna l-pajjiżi mhux sviluppati biex dawn ukoll ikunu f’posizzjoni li jaddattaw l-ekonomija tagħhom ħalli anke huma jagħtu l-kontribut tagħhom fit-tnaqqis tal-emissjonijiet mingħajr ma jħarbtu l-ekonomija dgħajfa tagħhom. B’hekk il-piz ikun jista’ jintrefa minn kulħadd għax min ma jiflaħx jiġi mgħejjun.

Il-ftehim ta’ Pariġi jorbot lil kull pajjiż li jistabilixxi hu l-emmissjonijiet tiegħu fil-futur iżda ma hemmx obbligu dwar kemm għandhom ikunu dawn l-emmissjonijiet. B’differenza mill-passat dan il-ftehim iħalli ħafna iktar diskrezzjoni f’idejn il-pajjiżi li iffirmawh u allura jiddependi ħafna iktar minn qatt qabel fuq il-volontà tal-pajjiżi individwali. Hawn qegħda d-diffikulta prinċipali tal-ftehim ta’ Pariġi: il-wegħdiet li għamlu s’issa l-pajjiżi individwali meta tgħoddhom flimkien m’humiex biżżejjed. Għad jonqos ħafna iktar x’isir.

Huwa għalhekk li l-għaqdiet ambjentali internazzjonali fil-waqt li huma sodisfatti li l-ftehim intlaħaq jenfasizzaw li dan għadu biss l-ewwel pass. Warajh iridu jiġu ħafna passi oħrajn li jekk ma jseħħux ma jintlaħaq xejn minn dak li ġie miftiehem.

Ma kienx faċli li jaslu sa hawn għax kienu diversi l-pajjiżi li baqgħu jkaxkru saqajhom, anke f’Pariġi. Pajjiżi bħall-Arabja Sawdita u l-Venezwela, produtturi ewlenin taż-żejt opponew kemm felħu. L-istess pajjiżi żviluppati argumentaw kontra l-prinċipju li jerfgħu l-piż tat-tniġġiż passat li wassal lid-dinja fil-posizzjoni diffiċli li tinsab fiha illum.

 

Jeħtieġ nifhmu li t-tibdil fil-klima diġa qiegħed magħna. Illum li (kif jgħidulna l-esperti) diġa qbiżna t-temperatura pre-industrijali bi 1oC u qed naraw b’għajnejna temp li qed jinbidel bin-natura tħarbat kull ma hawn madwarna.

Qed naraw xita li qed tonqos fil-frekwenza imma żżid fl-intensità, temperatura medja li qed togħla, silġ fil-poli u fuq il-muntanji li qed idub bil-konsegwenza li l-livelli tal-ibħra bdew jogħolew.

Diġa qed naraw b’għajnejna l-ħerba li qed tħalli warajha l-bidla fil-klima. Dan iżda għadu m’hu xejn ħdejn dak li jista’ jseħħ jekk il-pajjiżi kollha li nġabru u ftehmu f’Pariġi ma jwettqux dak li wegħdu. Għax l-effetti tal-bidla fil-klima huma serji ħafna.

Għalina f’Malta t-tibdil fil-klima jħalli impatt fuq saħħita, fuq l-ekonomija u anke bħala riżultat tal-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar il-kosta ta’ pajjiżna ukoll hi mhedda. Inżommu quddiem għajnejna li l-ogħli fil-livell tal-baħar jeffettwa l-faċilitajiet kollha kummerċjali u turistiċi li pajjiżna għandu mal-kosta, sviluppati tul is-snin bid-dedikazzjoni ta’ tant ġenerazzjonijiet li ġew qabilna.

Biex Malta tnaqqas il-kontribut tagħha lejn il-bdil fil-klima jeħtieġ li tkun inkoraġġita iżjed il-ġenerazzjoni ta’ enerġija alternattiva kif ukoll li jonqsu drastikament il-karozzi mit-toroq, permezz tal-użu ta’ mezzi differenti u alternattivi ta’ trasport u b’użu ikbar tat-trasport pubbliku. Hemm bżonn ukoll ta’ pjan fit-tul dwar kif tul is-snin ser innaqqsu l-emmissjonijiet mingħajr ma jkun hemm impatt negattiv fuq l-ekonomija. Dan jista’ jsir permezz ta’ dak li jissejjah Carbon Budget li jorbot lill-Gvern li jnaqqas id-dipendenza fuq iż-żjut billi jistabilixxi miri speċifiċi. Il-bidla li trid twassal għal tnaqqis tad-dipendenza fuq il-fjuwils fossili hija opportunità biex mhux biss nagħtu kontribut ikbar għat-tnaqqis tal-impatti fuq il-klima, imma ukoll biex ikollna arja nadifa, innaqqsu t-tniġġis u l-mard, kif ukoll biex nibnu ekonomija moderna li toffri sors ta’ għixien sostenibbli lin-nies.

Din hi l-unika triq.

pubblikat fuq iNews : it-Tnejn 14 ta’ Diċembru 2015

Malta’s Nine Ghost Towns

The 2005 Census had revealed that 53,136 residential units in Malta were vacant. This was an increase of 17,413 units over the 35,723 vacant residential units identified during the 1995 Census. Faced with an increase of over 48 per cent in 10 years, a responsible government would have contained the development boundaries as existing supply can satisfy the demand for residential accommodation for many years to come.

In 2006, just nine months after the 2005 Census, the Nationalist Party-led Government defied common sense and, instead of applying the brakes, it further increased the possibilities for building development through three specific decisions. Through the rationalisation process, the PN-led Government extended the boundaries of development in all localities. Then it facilitated the construction of penthouses by relaxing the applicable conditions. If this were not enough, it increased the height limitations in various localities, intensifying development in existing built-up areas.

As a result of increasing the permissible heights, sunlight was blocked off low-lying residential buildings in the affected areas.

These residences were using sunlight to heat water through solar water heaters or to generate electricity through photovoltaic panels installed on their rooftops.

They can now discard their investments in alternative energy thanks to the PN-led Government’s land use policies!

The result of these myopic land use planning policies further increased the number of vacant properties, which is estimated as being in excess of 70,000 vacant residential units. (Mepa chairman Austin Walker, in an interview in June 2010, had referred to an estimated 76,000 vacant residential properties.)

The estimated total of vacant residential properties is equivalent to nine times the size of the residential area of Birkirkara, the largest locality in Malta, which, in 2005, had 7,613 residential units.

These ghost towns over the years have gobbled up resources to develop or upgrade an infrastructure that is underutilised. Spread all over the Maltese islands, these ghost towns have required new roads, extending the drainage system, extending the utility networks and street lighting as well as various other services provided by local councils.

The funds channelled to service ghost towns could have been better utilised to upgrade the infrastructure in the existing localities over the years.

The above justifies calls for an urgent revision of development boundaries through a reversal of the 2006 rationalisation exercise where land included for development in 2006 is still uncommitted.

Similarly, the relaxation of height limitations and the facilitated possibility to construct penthouses should be reversed forthwith.

All this is clearly in conflict with the efforts being made by the Government itself, assisted with EU funds, to increase the uptake of solar water heaters and photovoltaic panels.

I am aware of specific cases where decisions to install photovoltaic panels have had to be reversed as a result of the development permitted on adjacent property subsequent to the 2006 height relaxation decisions.

In its electoral manifesto for the forthcoming election, AD, the Green party, will be proposing a moratorium on large-scale development in addition to the reversal of the above policies as it is unacceptable that the construction industry keeps gobbling up land and, as a result, adding to the stock of vacant property.

The market has been unable to deal with the situation and, consequently, the matter has to be dealt by a government that is capable of taking tough decisions in the national interest.

Neither the PN nor the Labour Party are capable of taking such decisions as it has been proven time and again that both of them are hostages to the construction industry.

The slowdown of the activities of the construction industry is the appropriate time to consider the parameters of its required restructuring. It is clear that the construction industry has to be aided by the State to retrain its employees in those areas of operation where lack of skills exist.

There are three such areas: traditional building trades, road construction and maintenance as well as marine engineering.

Traditional building skills are required primarily to facilitate rehabilitation works of our village cores and to properly maintain our historical heritage. Our roads require more properly-trained personnel so that standards of road construction and maintenance are improved and works carried out in time. Our ports and coastal defences require a well-planned maintenance programme and various other adaptation works as a result of the anticipated sea-level variations caused by climate change.

The construction industry employs about 11,000 persons. It is imperative that its restructuring is taken in hand immediately.

In addition to halting more environmental damage, a long overdue restructuring will also serve to mitigate the social impacts of the slowdown on the families of its employees through retraining for alternative jobs both in the construction industry itself and elsewhere.

The so-called ‘social policy’ of the PN and the PL have neglected these families for years on end.

 

published in The Times on 29 September 2012

A Green Vision – 50 years on

50 years ago Rachel Carson published her seminal book “Silent Spring”.

In 1962 Carson, a zoologist, argued that the use of pesticides had unintended consequences as whilst pesticides targeted pests they ended up affecting birds and their offspring. The result being a decrease in the bird population brought  about by intoxication as a consequence of the poisoning of the food chain.

Rachel Carson was the first person to give a popular voice to ecological concerns. In so doing she laid the foundations of environmentalism. It can be safely stated that her Silent Spring was the trigger of popular ecological awareness in the United States and Europe and to the consequential setting up of environmental NGOs as well as Green Political Parties.

Today’s generation is indebted to Rachel Carson for a powerful environmental movement in the four corners of the earth. We owe to her the popular awareness and understanding of nature’s fragility.

But obviously awareness and understanding is not sufficient. It must be our motivation to act. Planet Earth, fifty years after Silent Spring was published, is in a much worse state then ever. It has a temperature, it is warming up. Sea levels are rising. The climate is changing to one of less frequent but more intense storms which leave a trail of havoc in their path.

Water resources are declining.

Waste is not sufficiently understood as an underutilised resource.

The sea has also been heavily polluted and its resources plundered.

Consider the following observation made by Callum Roberts oceanographer at York University.

“The seas are the ultimate sinks. Chemicals get washed out of the soil and into streams and rivers. They should settle on the sea bed and stay there. However, fishing has become so intense, with boats dredging up scallops and bottom-welling  fish all the time, that we are constantly ploughing up these toxins, including DDT, and stirring them back into the water.”

The environment movement was born 50 years ago to make a difference. It was born out of a love for nature but is not restricted or limited to nature.  It has set out to implement  a green revolution : bettering our quality of life and as a result bequeathing a planet earth in a better state of health to future generations.

 

published on di-ve.com on 14 September 2012