The most sensitive threat – climate change

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

We have passed the critical point. We are already in the midst of global warming. An ecological deregulation occurred

There are several threats that plague life, especially human life, on our planet: the nuclear threat, the global collapse of the economic-social system, the overcoming of the “Earth Overload” (insufficiency of natural goods and services that sustain the life), the global scarcity of fresh water, among others.

Perhaps the most sensitive is climate change, as it is affecting entire populations. Linked to it is the water crisis that already affects many nations. Personally, I am experiencing this water drama. At the edge of my land, a small river flowed with abundant water. A small portion of it was channeled to produce a waterfall frequented by many throughout the year. Slowly, however, the river began to diminish, the waterfall disappearing until, over a long stretch, the river completely dried up, then appearing with a visible decrease in water. It rises from the middle of a completely preserved neighboring forest. There would be no reason for its waters to decrease. However, we know that the water factor is systemic, it is all interconnected. Worldwide, there is a growing shortage of drinking water.

The closest risk with harmful consequences is climate change, of anthropogenic origin, that is, produced by the way human beings, especially the owners of large industrial and financial complexes, have treated nature in the last three centuries. The project that animated and still animates this way of living on Earth is the unlimited growth of goods and services on the assumption that the Earth would also possess these goods in an unlimited way.

However, after the Report was published The limits of growth in 1972 by the Club of Rome it became clear that the Earth is a small planet with limited goods and services. It does not support unlimited growth. Today, to meet the demands of consumers, we need more than one and a half Earths, which puts total stress on the planet. It reacts, as it is a super entity that systemically governs itself as a living being, warming itself, producing extreme events and sending more and more dangerous, even lethal viruses, as we have seen with the coronavirus.

Conclusion: we have passed the critical point. We are already in the midst of global warming. An ecological deregulation occurred. Greenhouse gases, which produce heat, increased exponentially. Let's look at some data. In 1950, 6 billion tons of CO were emitted annually2.In 2000, 25 billion tons. In 2015 there were already 35,6 billion tons. In 2022/23, 37,5 billion tons annually were reached. In total, around 2,6 trillion tons of CO circulate in the atmosphere2, which remain in it for about 100 years.

In addition, analysts are not yet including the synergistic interaction between the plant community, land masses, oceans and ice in the worsening of global warming, which makes the climate situation dramatic. We touch the insurmountable limits of the Earth. If we continue our way of acting and consuming, life is threatened or the Earth will no longer want us on its surface.

The Paris agreement signed in 2015 requires all countries to commit to reducing greenhouse gases to avoid exceeding 1,5oC or up to 2oC in relation to the industrial era, he became frustrated. Countries have not done their homework. An immediate 60-80% reduction in CO emissions was required2. Otherwise, there would be a real risk of irreversible changes, which would leave vast regions of the Earth uninhabitable. The last COP28 showed that the use of fossil energy, oil, gas and minerals has increased.

President Lula said it well at COP28: “The planet is fed up with unfulfilled climate agreements. We need concrete attitudes. How many world leaders are actually committed to saving the planet?”

What predominates is denialism. The warming is said to be the effect of El Niño. El Niño enters the equation, but it does not explain it, it only worsens the ongoing process that has already started and has no return. The scientists in the field themselves confess: science and technology arrived late. They are not in a position to reverse this change, only to warn its arrival and mitigate the harmful effects.

Even so, two ways are proposed to face current warming: the first, using photosynthetic organisms, to absorb CO2 through plant photosynthesis and transforming it into biomass. It is the correct path, but insufficient. The second would be to release iron particles into the oceans, increasing their photosynthesis capacity. But this method is not scientifically advised due to predictable damage to life in the oceans.

We actually have no viable solutions. What is certain is that we have to adapt to climate change and organize our lives, oceanic cities, and production processes to mitigate the inevitable damage. Basically, we have to return to the myth of care about ourselves and about all things, as I have been insisting for years, since care belongs to the essence of the human and of all living things.

Let's imagine if one day, humanity becomes aware that life could disappear and causes the entire world population, over a weekend, to start planting trees and thus sequester carbon and create conditions for the life-system and humanity survive? It would be an attempt that we can implement and perhaps save ourselves. The imponderable can always happen as history has shown.

It is worth the warning of an eminent German philosopher Rudolf-Otto Apel: “For the first time in the history of the human race, human beings were put, in practice, before the task of assuming joint responsibility for the effects of their actions in a parameter that involves the entire planet” (The a priori of the Communication Community, Editora Loyola, p. 410). Either we take responsibility, without exception for anyone, for our common future or it could happen that we will no longer count among the living on planet Earth.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Inhabiting the Earth: what is the path to universal fraternity (Voices). [https://amzn.to/3RNzNpQ]


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