Appalling prospects for 2024 and beyond — wars and global warming

Appalling prospects for 2024 and beyond — wars and global warming Featured

AT the start of a new year, people are normally buoyant that things will get better, discarding the practices of the old with new year's resolutions that are soon discarded before the first month is out. My view is contrarian: 2024 is no better than 2023. It could get worse. Then, we shall also discard 2024 and hope for a better 2025. We enjoy deluding ourselves in the looming unknowns to escape the realities of sordid and unbearable knowns.

Wars

The world can't do without wars and conflicts. It is the nature of the beast revealed over the millennia fraught with immense human suffering, loss of life and long-lasting traumas. Conversely, they are the engines of growth and, in their aftermath, produce spurts of significant progress, as in the two world wars. Foremost of these are economic growth and industrialization as countries rebuild and modernize their economies. From the ashes of war, Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union rose, and America assumed the role of the first true hegemon of the modern century. America understood only too well the value of war and its aftereffects and thus invested heavily in defense industries and continued to mobilize resources for future war efforts, maintaining its reputation as a warmongering state. Technological advancement surged as dividends of war: radar, laser, nuclear energy, GPS and computers — the lifeblood and arteries of the modern world. And the internet!

The two post-world war periods saw medical advancements and techniques in saving lives: surgery, prosthetics, cloning, the discovery of antibiotics and penicillin, and improved methods for treating infectious diseases and vaccines, which helped 21st-century medicine understand and defeat Covid-19. Paradoxically, it is a double-edged sword as it added years to human lifespans, prolonging lives, wreaking havoc on the world's population, bringing to the fore the scary reality of a 'Malthusian catastrophe' — a disequilibrium between overpopulation against the Earth's capacity to feed itself.

Major wars also resulted in political restructuring and redrawing of national boundaries, with dominant nations gobbling up smaller ones, leading to the birth of new countries, alliances and changes in political systems. For a time, World War 2 resulted in a Cold War with America and the defunct Soviet Union (USSR) on opposite camps, advocating contradictory ideologies — democracy and liberal capitalism on one end and totalitarian-socialist-communism on the other and countless permutations in between — including the dreaded theocracy, government of priests, imams and rabbis deriving its authority from religion and the sanctity of their religious text — the Quran, Torah and the Bible. This convergence has reared its ugly head in the Middle East.

And more wars

However, we deny and close our eyes to the root cause of the Palestine and Middle East conflicts — religion, not a simple misinterpretation thereof but translating its faith-based perversions into political action. These faiths have long shrouded themselves with the cloak of geopolitics, and there seems to be no solution to these conflicts in the near term unless men of goodwill and, more importantly, moral leaders with secular predispositions take control of their governments and champion the human dignity of the adversaries.

But the foreseeable future belies these expectations. As we speak, Hezbollah, the Islamic "party of God" in Iran, is flexing its muscles and may enter the fray, sensing beleaguered Israel as weak and vulnerable even with America's sponsorship. Expect 2024 to witness an escalation with the West Bank and Lebanon in the northeast getting into the act. More killings. More blood.

Ukraine may be in its death throes as the Republicans in America awaiting the presidency of Donald Trump may no longer want to finance Ukraine. And NATO is drained out. With Ukraine abandoned by America, Putin resurrects his image in Eastern Europe, sowing renewed fear in the old Eastern alliance now within NATO's tentacles.

China's playing chicken with its daily jet sorties violating Taiwan's airspace and establishing its de facto nine-dash-line in the South China Seas, challenging the presence of America's formidable 7th fleet in what Xi Jinping considers as China's lake, is a disaster in the making.

All these could flare up anytime, escalating the current wars or even igniting new ones. But short of resulting in nuclear Armageddon, it is nothing comparable to what has been staring us in the face — the big elephant in the room.

Climate change-global warming

For the uninitiated, climate change will spell the end of the human species if not mitigated. The United Nations' definition of climate change: "refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil and gas), which produces heat-trapping gases."

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that the Earth's climate is unequivocally warming. Since the pre-industrial era, the global average temperature increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius. Unless mitigated, it is expected to continue increasing to a tipping point, the threshold beyond which the deterioration becomes irreversible, even if, by that time, the factors causing this temperature increase are eliminated.

Scientists disagree on the exact tipping point. But this is irrelevant, academic and stupid. The imperatives are putting in effect the Paris Agreement protocols to veer away from the tipping point. This international treaty on climate change adopted in 2015 covers climate mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Agreed to by almost 200 countries, its basic aim is "to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

The overall strategy is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the key stipulations include shifting away from fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy (solar, wind); promoting energy-efficient practices, technologies and infrastructures reducing energy consumption; and using electric vehicles and improving public transportation.

Protect and conserve existing forests, undertaking large-scale reforestation, effectively capturing and storing carbon dioxide to offset emissions. Implement sustainable farming practices, reducing deforestation for agriculture and encouraging regenerative land management techniques. And to incentivize businesses, particularly in the developed world, to implement policies like carbon pricing and cap-and-trade systems.

Where we are at

Now, the reality is that the Paris Agreement requires monitoring and reporting of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, but it does not have the ability to force a country to reduce emissions. The law-making system of each country has preponderance over the decisions made according to the Paris Agreement. Even peer pressure and soft power are lame instruments for coercive sanctions.

The biggest transgressors currently responsible for the most emissions are the world's two biggest economies, China and America. In June 2017, President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement. And China abandons its commitments.

Planet Earth is currently not on track to stay below the goals of the Paris Agreement. And scientists with tongue-in-cheek declare that we are on track to the sixth mass extinction in the Earth's geological history.

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Read 230 times Last modified on Wednesday, 10 January 2024 10:30
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