Looking back on our country’s environmental policy documents from past decades, one finds one broken promise after another. On many issues, we have gone the opposite direction entirely, having actually gone backwards rather than made any progress. At the same time, scientists this week warned that ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at a rate which matches the worst-case scenario for sea level rises. The Greenland ice sheet itself has melted past the point of no return, meaning that no matter what we do about climate change, there are events which have now been set in motion which we can do nothing about. This should not be a reason to give up, but it should be a call to arms locally and internationally to save what we can. The decisions we make now will affect the rest of human history.
The fires in the Amazon, Australia, Siberia and many more places besides over the past twelve months were a wake-up call, and a herald of things to come. Positive feedback loops are essentially a domino effect. Once this series of events is kicked off by a certain amount of warming, then it leads to more global warming – for example, by the release of methane into the atmosphere due to melting permafrost in Siberia. Since ice reflects light, once it is melted, then the Earth will retain more energy from the sun and therefore warm further.
The end result is a planet that cannot sustain civilization as we know it. The oceans grow more acidic, ecosystems collapse and natural disasters become not a way of life – but of death.
As apocalyptic as this all sounds, it is the danger we have put ourselves in through phenomenal arrogance. Just as many previous human civilizations have collapsed before, and just as the planet has already passed through 5 previous mass extinctions, we are now in the midst of a sixth. Yet somehow we think ourselves immune, safe, or special, simply because our egos allow us to think that the universe revolves around us.
Malta needs to use its diplomatic and political pressure in the European Union to call for more action than just lowering carbon emissions. We need to make it unprofitable to destroy the environment. Beef grown from the destruction of the Amazon rainforest should not have any market anywhere. We should be banning products which are created from the ruin of our environment. This is a debate which our MEPs should be spearheading. The very least thing we can do at this point is not only try to mitigate the damage, but stop actively making it worse.
We also need to start preparing for the worst, if we are to survive. Most predictions made by scientists about climate change are usually too safe and conservative – and new studies tend to show that the real picture is more devastating, as we have seen with the latest news about ice melt happening at the “worst-case” scenario rate. If you want to ruin your week, read about methane clathrates on our ocean floors. The very least we can do in our country is finally stand up to the construction industry, so give us space to breath and prepare for the changes to come. However, we must immediately start using our voice in the world to highlight the key issues and bring about actual changes. As individual citizens, it is our duty to educate ourselves and then pressure our politicians and community leaders to pass on the message. Malta must stand up and be counted, especially as a small island state.
Co-Chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika Żgħażagħ
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 6 September 2020