Zimbabwe: Act On Declaration of Climate Emergency

13 November 2019

A new report by 11 258 scientists from 153 countries warns that people will face untold suffering related to climate change if they don't change the way they live.

The report, dubbed "World Scientists' Warning of a Climate Emergency," published in Bioscience, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, is a glaring exodus from recent scientific assessments of climate change which did not declare global warming as an emergency.

"Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to tell it like it is. We declare, with more than 11 000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency," said the report.

The paper clearly warns that "untold human suffering" is inescapable if humanity does not change its activities that contribute to massive greenhouse emissions.

"Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament," the report notes.

The report is based on a number of indicators that show human influence on climate.

These include 40 years of greenhouse gas emissions, population growth, economic trends, per capita meat production and global tree cover loss among other anthropogenic consequences. Other notable indicators include booming air passenger numbers and growth in the world's Growth Domestic Product (GDP).

"The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle. The most affluent countries are mainly responsible for the historical green house gas emissions and generally have the greatest per capita emissions."

As a result of these human activities, the report says, climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected.

"It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.

"Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable."

The scientists listed six fundamental issues that nations should address to prevent the most disastrous situations.

These include eating less meat, replacing fossil fuels, building a carbon-free economy, cutting the emissions of climate pollutants such as methane and soot, protecting ecosystems, investing in family planning activities to stabilise population growth and improve on girls' education.

The report also unswervingly addresses the politically sensitive subject of population growth. It calls for holistic changes in economic growth and population policies to cut greenhouse emissions.

According to the report, when drafting such polices, policymakers should thrive on strengthening human rights, especially for women and girls, while increasing the availability of family planning to all populations.

On energy, the report calls for governments to cut out fossil fuels in favour of renewable sources of energy, a trend it said is not being adopted faster.

Further, on all remaining fossil fuels in the world, the report urged nations to keep them in the ground and never burn them to generate energy.

The scientists also call for tough policies that would restrain biodiversity losses and recommend prioritising the intactness of forests that store carbon along with other lands that can rapidly bury carbon, thereby reducing global warming.

On the economy, the study states that "excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems, driven by economic growth, must be quickly curtailed to maintain long-term sustainability of the biosphere."

The report notes that nations should shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence towards sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritising basic needs and reducing inequality.

On food, the report encouraged eating mostly plant-based foods while reducing the global consumption of animal products, especially ruminant livestock.

This, according to the report, can improve human health and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, this will free up croplands for growing much-needed human plant food, instead of livestock feed, while releasing some grazing land to support natural climate solutions.

The report also advocated for cropping practices such as minimum tillage that increase soil carbon, and the need to drastically reduce the enormous amount of food waste around the world.

This is a call for nations to embrace social economic justice for all populations as the benefits exceed doing business as usual.

Mitigating and adapting to climate change while honouring the diversity of humans entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.

The scientists also pointed out that they are encouraged by a recent surge of concern by Governmental bodies making climate emergency declarations. In Zimbabwe, global climate change is viewed as a serious issue by the Government.

According to United Nations Development Programme, Climate Change Adaptation: "The driving forces behind this concern stem not so much from problems of reducing Zimbabwe's emission of greenhouse gases, but rather the potentially serious impacts that global climate change might have on the country."

Just like the rest of Africa, lack of human, institutional and financial resources is inhibiting Zimbabwe from putting appropriate measures in place to respond to climate change requirements.

The impacts of climate change in the country are related to food security and inadequate potable water supply. Climate change impacts in Zimbabwe are related to water supply and food security.

Another challenge is that the country is already prone to droughts, and citizens are already feeling the shocks over the last two decades. Moreover, the geographical location of the country in the tropics makes it susceptible to ever-changing rainfall patterns, and water resources availability.

Additionally, Zimbabwe is also vulnerable to climate-driven health impacts from vector-borne diseases such as malaria worsened by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Hence, adaptations to mitigate climate change impacts are thus required to reduce impact in key economic sectors, especially agriculture.

The report concludes by saying the scientists, "stand ready to assist decision-makers in a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future."

"We urge widespread use of vital signs, which will better allow policymakers, the private sector, and the public to understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change," the report notes.

The prospects will be greatest if decision-makers in Zimbabwe and citizens respond to the warning and declaration of climate emergency and act on it for a sustainable future.

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