The chihuahua that roared

During the Cancún Climate Summit Bolivian President Evo Morales emphasised that “nature has rights”. He insisted on a 1°C rise above the pre-industrial-age temperature as the maximum permissible.

Stripped of his trademark anti-US remarks the Morales input at Cancún would not have led to any radically different conclusions at the summit. Who can dispute his declaration in favour of families already deprived of water because of drought, or islanders facing the loss of their homes and possessions as a result of rising sea levels? His plea was one to buttress arguments in favour of mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Realistically, however, there was never a chance of this being accepted.

Participants at Cancún opted instead for declarations which though very important as a political statement served to postpone decisions to the Durban Climate Summit towards the end of this year. It is this postponement which led to the Morales outburst equating lack of definite action with “ecocide which is equivalent to genocide because this would be an affront to mankind as a whole”.

Cancún went one step further from the declarations of the past. Agreement in principle was reached on the need for inspections in order to account for commitments made. As to who will eventually carry out the monitoring, reporting and verification this is still to be determined. Maybe this will be concluded at Durban later this year on the basis of the agreement in principle sealed at Cancún.

Climate change diplomacy is moving although at a very slow pace.

In the words of BBC Cancún correspondent Richard Black one can compare the 2009 Copenhagen summit to a Great Dane which whimpered while the Cancún 2010 summit can be compared to a chihuahua which roared. Much was expected from Copenhagen but little tangible results were achieved. On the other hand while there were no great expectations from the Cancún summit, foundations for a comprehensive settlement in the future were laid. Whether this will be achieved at Durban or possibly later is still to be seen.

At Cancún pledges by countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions were formalised. Developing countries for the first time agreed to look into possible cuts in their own emissions. They made no formal pledges yet they moved one step forward towards a more reasonable application of the “common but differentiated responsibility” principle in climate change diplomacy.

Countries represented at Cancún gave formal backing to the UN’s deforestation scheme REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). As a result of REDD rich countries will pay poor countries not to chop down forests on their territory. This will compensate them for their lost income and further encourage the production and use of sustainable timber. The developed countries will thus be paying for protecting biodiversity as well as for the service which forests are rendering as carbon sinks. Details of the REDD scheme have still to be worked out. Maybe by the Durban Climate Summit these will be settled.

The Cancún agreement has acknowledged for the first time in a UN document that global warming must not exceed pre-industrial temperatures by more than 2°C. While being a big step forward, this is clearly not enough. In fact exceeding pre-industrial temperatures by more than 1.5°C endangers the very existence of a number of islands as well as low-lying coastal areas.

Small island states and coastal areas are already feeling the impacts of climate change: millions reside and earn their livelihood in such areas. If temperature rises are not contained within the said 1.5°C increase these millions risk becoming climate change refugees.

The first climate change refugees have already left their homeland. Those displaced by sea level changes have already left the Carteret Islands and Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean.

Drought has been playing havoc with the lives of various African nations resulting in escalating tribal conflicts which have displaced millions of human beings. In Malta we have direct experience of this through the boat refugees departing from Libyan shores, a number of whom end up in Malta.

Depending on the actual rise above pre-industrial temperatures, current projections indicate that in the long term more than one billion human beings could face losing their homes and possessions in islands and coastal areas as a result of sea level rise. Millions more will be displaced as a result of the impacts of changing weather patterns. Availability of water will change as a result of a varying frequency and intensity of rainfall. As a result this will impact agriculture, sanitation and the quality of life in the areas affected.

Mr Morales is right. Nature has rights. It will strike back in defence of these rights if current greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced substantially. Maybe the roaring chihuahua will alert policy makers around the globe that there is no alternative to substantial reductions across the board.

 

Published in The Times of Malta : January 1, 2011

Kif tagħmel …………… jagħmlulek

 30 ta’ Diċembru 2009
 

 

Naħseb li lkoll kemm aħna konxji li l-klima qiegħda tinbidel. L-is­ta­ġuni ma tafx iżjed meta jibdew jew meta jispiċċaw. Fis-sajf sħana kbira li dejjem iżżid. Xita qawwija f’ħin qasir f’kull żmien tas-sena b’għargħar aktar ta’ spiss. Qegħdin niffaċċjaw estre­mi ta’ temp. Dawn huma wħud mill-indikazzjonijiet li għandna f’Malta li l-klima qiegħda tin­bidel.

F’pajjiżi oħrajn it-temp inbidel ukoll. Insegwu dak li qed jiġri fuq il-televiżjoni, bħall-għargħar riċenti f’Cumbria fit-Tramuntana tal-Ingilterra jew l-urugan Kat­rina li ħarbat l-istat ta’ New Orleans fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika fi tmiem Awwissu, 2005. Inkella l-urugani spissi fl-istat Ameri­kan ta’ Florida. Anki fl-Ewropa segwejna każi estremi ta’ temp kemm f’dik li hi temperatura kif ukoll għargħar ikkawżat diret­ta­ment mix-xita inkella mill-faw­ran ta’ xmajjar.

Il-parti l-kbira tax-xjenzjati jaqblu li dan kollu hu prinċi­pal­ment ir-riżultat akkumulat tul is-snin ta’ emissjonijiet mill-ħruq ta’ żjut u faħam biex il-bniedem jipproduċi l-enerġija, kif ukoll mit-trasport u minn proċessi industrijali. Naqsu wkoll il-foresti f’kull parti tad-dinja biex jittieħed l-injam tagħ­hom għall-ħatab, għall-bini ta’ djar jew għal xi użu ieħor bħall-bini tax-xwieni fi żminijiet oħ­rajn. Il-foresti naqsu wkoll biex żdiedet l-art għall-agrikoltura.

B’hekk id-dinja qiegħda żżomm is-sħana tax-xemx bħal f’serra bir-riżultat li t-tem­pe­ra­tura madwarna qiegħda togħla ftit ftit. Dan iżda ma jseħħx bl-istess mod kullimkien. Ix-xjen­zati huma tal-opinjoni li jekk it-temperatura taqbeż dik tal-bidu taż-żmien industrijali b’aktar minn 2 gradi Celsius, iseħħu tibdiliet kbar fil-klima. Tibdiliet li ħdejhom dak li seħħ s’issa jitqies bħala insinjifikanti. Rap­preżentanti ta’ gżejjer kemm fil-Paċifiku kif ukoll fil-Karibew qegħ­din jinsistu li l-limitu mas­simu għandu jkun 1.5 gradi Celsius fuq it-temperatura taż-żmien pre-industrijali. Dan qegħdin jgħiduh għax huma diġà qegħdin iħossu wieħed mill-effetti tal-bidla fil-klima. Il-livell tal-baħar qed jogħla u dawk li joqogħdu f’uħud minn dawn il-ġżejjer diġà qed ikoll­hom idabbru rashom. L-ewwel refuġjati tal-klima fil-fatt kienu r-residenti tal-gżejjer Carteret fil-Papua New Guinea liema gżejjer diġà bdew jiġu mgħot­tijin bl-ilma baħar. Sal-2015, hu kkalkolat li dawn il-gżejjer ikunu mgħarrqin kompletament bħala riżultat tal-bdil gradwali fil-livell tal-baħar.

Fl-Afrika wkoll it-temp inbidel drastikament. F’uħud mill-pajjiżi Afrikani bħas-Somalja, l-Etjopja u l-Eritrea hemm nixfa kbira u dan bħala riżultat ta’ nuqqas ta’ xita fuq perjodu twil ta’ żmien. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, l-agrikoltura mhix tirrendi u n-nies m’għandhiex x’tiekol. Iffaċ­ċati b’dan, in-nies qegħdin jitil­qu minn dawn il-pajjiżi u qegħ­din jemigraw lejn pajjiżi oħrajn. Jaslu sal-Libja jew xi pajjiż ieħor bħall-Marokk u mbagħad jaq­smu lejn l-Ewropa b’numru minn­hom jispiċċaw Malta. Numru mhux żgħir minn dawn l-immigranti li f’pajjiżna nsej­ħul­hom “immigranti illegali” huma vittmi tal-bidla fil-klima.

Il-bidla fil-klima lilna f’Malta tista’ teffettwana b’mod dras­ti­ku wkoll u dan fi żmien mhux wisq ’il bogħod. In-nuqqas ta’ xita u l-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar se jkollhom effett dirett fuq l-agrikultura. L-ilma tal-pjan na­qas sewwa kemm fil-kwantità kif ukoll fil-kwalità. Dan riżultat tal-‘boreholes’, kemm dawk legali kif ukoll dawk illegali. Jekk ikun baqa’ ilma tal-pjan, dan se jkompli jiġi mgħarraq għax ikun diġà sar salmastru hekk kif il-livell tal-baħar jogħla ftit ftit. L-ilma ma jkunx iżjed tajjeb biex jintuża la għax-xorb, la għat-tisqija u lanqas għall-industrija għax ikun wisq mie­laħ. Ikun jeħtieg li jiġi trattat bir-‘reverse osmosis’ jew xi pro­ċess ieħor li jkollu bżonn ħafna enerġija. Bla ilma, kif nafu, ma jista’ jsir xejn.

Dakinhar li pajjiżna jirrealizza li ġie wiċċ imbwiċċ ma’ din il-prob­lema, dawk minna li jkunu għadhom jgħixu hawn, ikunu fl-istess pożizzjoni ta’ dawn l-“im­migranti illegali”, refuġjati tal-klima huma wkoll u jibdew ifittxu x’imkien ieħor fejn jistgħu jgħixu.

Tgħid ikunu lesti li jaċċettaw li jkunu trattati bħall-immigranti li jaslu Malta illum: li jkunu msakkrin, bl-għassa u b’deten­zjo­ni ta’ 18-il xahar imposta fuq­hom mingħajr ma qatt għamlu ħsara lil ħadd?

Wara kollox mhux kif tagħ­mel jagħmlulek?