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Fossil Fuels Are Endangering Life On Earth – OpEd

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The human-induced global warming is proving the most pressing problem. The speed of climate change has even surprised the common people. 

What is more painful is that the move to slow down this speed is too sluggish, let alone those who deny or reject human activities as the chief culprit for the warming planet.

Regrettably, the climate change has become politicized. While the climate change must be viewed as a purely scientific issue, it has become a point of contention between rival political parties in countries and even between countries. For example, on June 30 the conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court voted to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set standards on climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants. 

The planet Earth and its inhabitants, especially in arid and semi-arid areas, are being crucified by careless and stupid rulers.  Rulers in certain countries are also trying to keep the public in dark about the causes and consequences of global warming. 

For such rulers it is not important that the health and life of millions of people in the Middle East are being threatened due to repeated droughts and the resulting dust storms. Regrettably, long years of war in the region, especially in Iraq and Syria, coupled with high pressure on water resources, like building dams on rivers or redirecting the flow of waters, like what Turkey has done, have exacerbated the situation.

Fossil fuels — coal, oil, and natural gas — are the primary causes of climate change. Unfortunately, it is a proven fact that the profits of the companies that produce fossil fuel cars are much more important than those farmers who are losing their crops and cattle due to water shortage.

For example, hundreds of thousands of people in Iran have left their villages and are now living in the outskirts of cities to earn something to survive as they no longer can grow crops or raise cattle because of repeated droughts.

Also consider Afghanistan. This country not only has not seen peace for more than four decades, which was first triggered by the Soviet invasion of the country, it is also a victim of global warming.

“The fallout from the Taliban’s takeover, coupled with the drought and soaring wheat prices thanks to Russia’s war on Ukraine, means that some 10 million people—more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s population—are near famine,” phys.org said in a report on April 6, 2022, citing the Afghan Analysts Network.

In a report on Sept. 16, 2022, euronews. green reported that Gabriela Bucher, international executive director of Oxfam, has said, “Climate change is no longer a ticking bomb, it is exploding before our eyes.”

It added Oxfam has found an extreme rise in hunger in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

Today, 48 million people across these countries suffer acute hunger – up from 21 million in 2016 – 18 million of whom are on the brink of starvation, it added.

A great majority of countries have also missed the targets set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  For example, the U.S. signed the 1977 Kyoto Protocol agreement in 1998 but never ratified it and later withdrew its signature. Australia even opposed the protocol at the beginning. Canada, one of main emitters, also pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2013. Japan and Russia, also two main emitters, said in 2012 that they would not accept new Kyoto commitments.

Sanctions and wars are also dealing more blows to the environment. For example, the sanctions on Iran, which had been lifted under the UN-endorsed 2015 nuclear deal but were returned again, has prevented Iran to renew its energy-intensive industries, especially its car companies. The sanctions were restored by Donald Trump who called climate change a “hoax” invented by China and also withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is also adding salt to the wound. For example, Axel Michaelowa, a senior founding partner of German-based climate consultancy, Perspectives Climate Group, has highlighted the need to better declare and account for military and conflict-related emissions.

“Given that military emissions can reach hundreds of million tons of CO2 per year,” nations need to “address more transparently” the direct and indirect climate impacts of war, said Michaelowa, DW reported on June 23. 

Leaders, politicians or managers who have been saying that it is not possible to quickly march away from coal and other fossil fuels are ignorant of the fact that global warming will also cripple the industries that they boast have created jobs and are the engine of economic vitality. 

In the same way that the global warming has caused droughts, storms, heatwaves, fire storms, etc., and put into serious question the UN goal to reduce poverty, it will affect everything, including industries.

In view of the fact that transportation is largest source of emission and power plants come second, every auto company or power plant that is slow to transition to renewable energy is committing crime against people, especially those who are grappling with water scarcity and repeated droughts.

*M.A. Saki is a political analyst 

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