Air QualityEnvironment & ClimateSustainability

COP27. Are pledges made to protect the human inhabitants of planet Earth, or planet Earth itself?

By November 10, 2022 No Comments

Observations made by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2

COP27 has the eyes of the world on Egypt this year & one question has again brought leaders from around the globe together; how can we keep global temperatures below 1.5°C?

As an outsider looking in it seems more evident that the agendas of the COP are seemingly based on eliciting pledges to prevent an above 1.5°C & the effects this will have on humans, rather than the direct impact it could have on the very Earth beneath those same humans’ feet. A dilemma of our own creation.

The Covid19 pandemic should have been a wake-up call for the human race. A deadly virus holding the world to ransom, not the first & undoubtedly not the last, it came with a message; you need to watch how easily deadly diseases can travel.

Unfortunately, it does not look like this little virus shouted loudly enough & since lockdowns have eased globally, the rush to catch up with lost income from lockdown periods of inactivity & the race to travel internationally again, has in some areas seen countries sidestep their emissions reductions targets to fill gaps in their GDP & for many, rebuild their tourism stocks.

One of the other ironies presented by the COP is that the agenda seems to be targeted at saving planet Earth, but only in the context of ensuring the humans which inhabit it survive & thrive. It is no secret that anthropogenic climate change is largely to blame for the current climate crisis & therefore the humans who the world leaders pledge to save, are sadly the reason our little blue planet is struggling.

Therefore, how is it that we seem to be seeing such a great increase in the effects of climate change on the global human population? One reason could be to do with just how many human beings now inhabit planet Earth.

According to the World Economic Forum the entire population of planet Earth in 8000 BCE was estimated at around 5 million. By the year 0 the world population was estimated at around 190 million, with most living in Asia. It was not until the early 1800’s that world population grew to about 990 million & subsequently 1.65 billion by 1900. (1)

With estimates of a world population reaching 8 billion by the end of 2022, the maths evident; a 7 billion increase in the amount of humans on planet Earth in less than 250 years.

So how have we managed to increase the global population so vastly & in such a short space of time? The simple answer is our ability to move, to travel & in doing so we have sought ever greater land for humans to live on, to grow food on & raise herds of animals for meat on.

Before the industrial revolution human movement was relatively restricted. We ate food grown in our own countries soil; we reared animals indigenous to our land for meat & we mostly breathed clean air.

So, we may not have had access to the greatest medicines & our life expectancy was not as great as in what is known as the ‘modern world’; but, smog, CO2 emissions & toxic pollution were also not part of daily lives & our biodiversity was doing OK with only naturally occurring climate interventions keeping a natural rhythm & order.

It is absolutely no secret that the reason why we are seeing such large temperature spikes globally, sea levels are rising, cities draped in toxic fog, our seas polluted & our polar ice caps melting is because of us, humans.  Our desire for technological advances has come at a price & no matter how you look at it, the industrialisation of our way of life has sent us on a trajectory of GHG’s, CO2, emissions & toxicity affecting the natural development of the planet we inhabit.

Despite the natural occurrences our planet has always seen – volcanic activity, wild storms, flooding, drought – in a pre-industrial era, planet Earth was not the stricken place it is now & the saddest thing of all is that humans have managed to achieve this level of destruction of our natural resources in the name of progress, the name of technology & in the name of human evolution.

A recent news story brought home the impact our technological evolution has on the natural world & it’s remaining indigenous people.

It is no secret that due to the global population explosion since the start of industrialisation, the need for human domiciles & land to plant crops/raise herds of animals for meat has impacted the natural world, biodiversity & the land where indigenous peoples have been dwelling for sometimes thousands of years undisturbed.

One such group of indigenous people, the Cuninico community from Peru, stood up against the polluting nature of human progress recently following the spillage of 2,500 tons of crude oil into the Cuninico River. The Cuninico had already blocked the transit of all vessels on the river in protest against the spill, which was caused by a rupture in the Norperuano oil pipeline.

Having detained a group of tourists as a “radical measure” in an effort to put pressure on the government to send a delegation to assess the environmental damage, the Cuninico community took a stand, trying to protect their way of life from outside influences. (2)

The Guardian reported that one Briton on board the tourist vessel sent a message to the BBC to say conditions were “starting to deteriorate” as they were beginning to run out of food & water.

She called for an “intervention” to rescue them, adding there were pregnant, elderly & sick people among those detained. (2)

The report highlights the irony of how the tourists or ‘outsiders’ found the discomfort of one night on their boat needed an “intervention”, yet if it was not for the international coverage of the event; another indigenous community would have had its way of life disrupted again by the pollution created by human made toxins having been mismanaged.

The further irony of the event is that during COP27 the affect climate change is having & will have on indigenous people will be discussed again. Entire populations of indigenous people are – with sea levels rising, ice caps melting, deforestation & extreme drought – looking at a bleak future & climate migration to become a real & tangible thing.

Therefore, with the COP well underway & the international community once again pledging to reduce emissions, reduce carbon, improve their green economies; what does this really mean for the planet humans inhabit & how can Governments stop spiralling CO2 emissions?

A new report from Carbon Brief ‘Analysis: Which countries are historically responsible for climate change?’ challenges which countries are vastly to blame for the acceleration of anthropogenic climate change.

Carbon Brief looks at national responsibility for historical CO2 emissions from 1850-2021, updating analysis published in 2019. (3)

In total, humans have emitted around 2,500bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) into the atmosphere since 1850, leaving less than 500GtCO2 of remaining carbon budget to stay below 1.5C of warming. (3)

For the first time, the analysis includes CO2 emissions from land use & forestry, in addition to those from fossil fuels. (3)

In first place on the rankings, the US has released more than 509GtCO2 since 1850 & is responsible for the largest share of historical emissions, with some 20% of the global total. (3)

China is a relatively distant second, with 11%, followed by Russia (7%), Brazil (5%) & Indonesia (4%). The latter pair are among the top 10 largest historical emitters, due to CO2 from their land. (3)

Meanwhile, large post-colonial European nations, such as Germany and the UK, account for 4% and 3% of the global total, respectively, not including overseas emissions under colonial rule. (3)

The Carbon Brief analysis has used figures presented by the IPCC & by the Global Carbon Project to collate their figures.

Therefore, if you consider the theme of this article being about how vast amounts of humans are to blame for the climate crisis, let us consider the figures.

Preindustrial America’s population for example (1700) is estimated at 250,888. There are now an average 332,403,650 people living in the US, an increase of 332,152,762 in a little over 300 years. Chinas population having been estimated at approximately 150,000,000 in 1700, now stands at approximately 1.426 billion, with India closely behind with approximately 1.417 billion.

With it being estimated that more than half of all people on planet Earth live in just seven countries, mostly in Asia; is it any wonder the gargantuan task of reducing global climate temperatures to a safe measure for continued human inhabitation of planet Earth is, on the surface, seemingly unfathomable?

With the human population of Earth set to reach an estimated approximate 10 billion by 2050, the climate pledges made by world leaders will need to be met & they will need to be met above & beyond their need to boost their GDP, because sadly without a sustainable planet beneath our feet, all the money in the world will be for naught.

Observations made by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2