On the increasingly prevalent need to prioritise Environmental Protection and its wide
ranging impacts on the global community, especially in the wake of the increasing
effects of Global Warming.
A recent UN report explained how immediate action is required to protect the earth in order to
prevent reaching a point of no return at which moment international catastrophe would be
inevitable. This report gave the world twelve years until this point is reached, therefore it is
imperative to ensure that climate change is at the forefront of the global agenda
Climate change is defined as a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a
change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the
increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels. In recent
years the consequences of this change have become more apparent from simple things such as
longer and hotter summers to devastating hurricanes, floods and fires, such as the ones in
California, caused by a rise in global temperature and melting ice caps.
Over the next few years and decades it has been predicted that sea levels will rise, decimating low lying countries and coastal areas, increasing temperature will lead to more droughts and hurricanes will become more intense, something already demonstrated by the devastating hurricane season in the US
that brought destruction to Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.
Plastics in Oceans
There are an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. While rising ocean
levels pose a threat to many cities, the disturbing amount of plastic in the ocean poses a more
immediate threat to wildlife welfare. The oft-cited Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the
size of Texas, with the plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one. Said plastic is highly
detrimental to the health of the animals in the area, as one million seabirds and 100,000 marine
mammals are killed annually by plastic in our oceans. Health risks are not limited to the wildlife.
The chemicals in plastics are released into the water, which plastic toxins entering the food
chain, leading to human ingestion. Toxins such as BPA interfere with the natural production and
function of hormones in the human body.
In addition to the toxic pesticides being used for agriculture, global warming is pushing bee
populations to their limits. Many of the chemicals used to target pests have proven fatal to bees.
Furthermore, recent studies have proven that warmer climates can cause a drastic increase in
bee mortality rates, which can ultimate lead to their extinction. Because bees are primary
pollinators, reductions in bee populations would disrupt ecosystems around the world. Many
food chains would be destroyed, affecting many crops and jeopardizing almost all of the food we
Land Degradation and Desertification
As we continue to expand agriculturally, the impacts of land degradation are becoming more
prominent. In recent years especially, human activity has driven many species to extinction,
threatened global food security, and accelerated climate change. Over 75% of land on Earth is
already degraded, and is expected to reach 90% by 2050. Economically, for example, soil
degradation costs the EU tens of billions of euros each year. While the detrimental ramifications
are seen globally and are acknowledged by the United Nations Convention to Combat
Desertification (UNCCD), they must be solved at the local level.
CURRENT AGREEMENTS REGARDING THE ENVIRONMENT
- Kyoto Protocol: Produced December 1997, entered into force February 2005 after being ratified by 163 countries. It introduced legally binding targets for countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 2008- 2012. Neither the United States nor Australia—two of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases—ratified the Protocol.
- The Earth Summit: Took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. This was a conference on sustainable development of the environment. Attending countries highlighted seven issues; jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans, and disasters. The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, encouraged all countries to increase the use of renewable energy sources like hydropower, wind power, and solar power.
- United Nations Global Goals: In September 2015, the United Nations passed the Global Goals. All of the 17 Global Goals are linked to solving the climate crisis. Global Goal 13, climate action, calls for the international community to combat the impacts of climate change.
- Paris agreement: At the December 2015 Paris Climate Conference, also known as COP21, there was a landmark decision by the United Nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. For the first time, 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed to limit emissions and to take common climate action. With this agreement nations signed a goal to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius and reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of the century.10 This will hopefully lead to an increase in clean energy development and usage.