By Marilyn Bruno, Climate Writer
Last year, I wrote an article about the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 and how it was created to divert the attention of young voters from the Viet Nam War. In 2015, most countries of the world signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to meet UN emission reduction targets to ensure that 2030 temperatures do not exceed 1.5 degrees Centigrade above 1997 levels, they have failed.
Despite some progress (replacing fossil fuels with biofuels, building wind farms, installing solar panels, and transitioning to electric vehicles), Earth Day 2023 looks gloomy. Most countries have failed to meet their emission reduction targets and we are all witnessing extreme weather events attributed to this failure.
On March 27, 2023, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released the Sixth Assessment Report, which is being called the “survival guide for humanity.” Written over 8 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body charged with advancing scientific knowledge about climate change, with input from hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists, the roadmap for survival is clear:
1. Now is our last chance to act to stop burning fossil fuels and destroying nature. The last time CO2 levels in our atmosphere were this high was over two million years ago.
2. We’ve already warmed the planet by 1.1°C since pre-industrial times. Global greenhouse gas emissions between 2010 and 2019 were higher than any previous decade in human history.
3. The world’s oceans, plants, animals and soils have absorbed 54% of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions of the past 10 years.
4. We have to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 just to limit warming to 1.5°C in order to secure a livable future.
5. It is already too late for 3.6 billion of our 8 billion global population, who will be displaced by weather-related extreme events over the next 7 years.
6. We have the affordable technologies and knowledge to avoid our own, personal destructive behaviors, but global access and adoption is uneven and insufficient.
On this Earth Day 2023, we all need to agree that no issue is more pressing than reducing CO2 emissions. We can celebrate our support by joining the many events that are going on or organizing our own. Or just plant some bee-friendly flowers, stop using barbeques and fire pits, carpool, install a microalgae farm in your backyard (it captures 300x more CO2 than a tree), etc.