Climate Change in Malta driven by Ecocide. Climate Change is the term generally used to describe the global ecological crises we are facing. The crisis is in fact broader and far more threatening. Climate change is just one consequence of ecocide – the wilful destruction of the natural world. The planet is engulfed in unprecedented volumes of air, land and marine pollution. Biodiversity losses and species extinctions are up to ten-thousand-fold of those that would naturally occur. The collapse of ecosystems that support human and all planetary life is the real crisis. This crisis is threefold and is that of pollution, climate change and biodiversity losses resulting in ecosystems degradation and collapse.
Atmospheric and ocean warming are caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), such as carbon dioxide and methane. The content of GHG in the atmosphere has increased by more than 50% since preindustrial times.
GHG emissions have increased globally year on year despite numerous international meetings to limit them. The 2015 Paris agreement to reduce GHG emissions, in order to limit the global average temperature increase over preindustrial times to 1.5°C, has failed. The UN IPCC has warned that the 1.5°C threshold will be overshot in the coming few years and that greenwashing and business-as-usual will increase this average temperature by 2.7°C with catastrophic consequences. These global average temperature numbers hide the reality of extreme weather.
Rather than decrease by 45%, GHG emissions are heading to increase by 16% by 2030. Moreover there is no plan of how to reduce the GHG already in the atmosphere and oceans. Irreversible feedback loops that are likely to kick off in nature, creating uncontrollable emissions and warming, are only included in scientific studies in the form of probabilities of failure.
This international predicament is reflected in Malta. It has been publicly declared that we are seeing the effects of climate change in Malta. Whilst it is true that Malta’s contribution to this ecological crisis would not materially affect global outcomes, it is undeniable that the severe degradation of Malta’s ecosystems is seriously impacting our physical and mental health, also causing fatalities.
Malta’s natural environment and biodiversity are under threat of extinction. The environmental degradation is cumulative and has been intensifying and accelerating in recent decades.
We are well into the Anthropocene, the age of humans, as there is hardly any place on Earth that has not been impacted by human activity. The Anthropocene is characterised by the sixth mass extinction of biodiversity on Earth. People are part of the Earth’s biodiversity. All previous five mass extinctions were mostly caused by geological and volcanic upheavals and meteor strikes each resulting in the extinction of 75% to 96% of all life on the planet. The last one that wiped out the dinosaurs occurred 66 million years ago. This sixth mass extinction is different, albeit not less lethal, in that it is caused entirely by humanity’s overexploitation of the natural world. This is an existential threat of global proportions and with serious local implications.
The European Union has echoed the United Nations in its European Green Deal slogan of placing nature at the heart of decision making. Time will tell whether meaningful and sufficient actions will follow the political rhetoric. The lack of political will to act on ecocide remains the single biggest obstacle along the path to a healthier and safer world.
Humanity lives within the collection of planetary ecosystems, also called the biosphere. The biosphere stretches from the Earth’s core to the outermost reaches of our atmosphere. It creates and maintains the web of biological life. The web of life sustains people’s lives. It is our universe. There is no life for people, or any other Earth species, outside the biosphere.
Scientists and ecologists have understood the web of life to be made up of ecosystems that exist in dynamic balance. Ecosystems happen in a location but they are not a place. They are the interactions between the water, air, soils and terrestrial, marine & fresh water, aerial and subterranean species that exist within them. Healthy ecosystems are carbon sinks whilst degraded ecosystems are net carbon emitters.
Maltese modern culture, public governance and economic activity based on growth and the overexploitation of our natural spaces have impoverished, degraded and, in too many cases, destroyed most of the islands’ fragile ecological heritage. This will exacerbate climate change in Malta.
It is important to re-establish a balance in nature that still sustains human life and the life of as many as possible of the species that have shared our evolutionary journey so far, before it is too late.
By identifying our islands’ carrying capacities and placing healthy ecosystems at the centre of all personal, corporate and public decision making, there is an opportunity to restore the balance between people and nature in our country. This would create a more equitable society and greater wellbeing.
This article was published in the Din L-Art Helwa’s Novemebr 2021 VIGILO publication
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