Happy first day of Spring and International Day of Happiness to all
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I recently watched the viral video of a reusable rocket being launched into sub-orbital space and returning to earth 10 minutes later. The short video reinforced upon me just how small Earth's atmosphere of 60 miles really is, and the spurious release of manmade climate-altering gases is profoundly affecting the thin layer that maintains human and other lifeforms on the planet. Even the oceans are being affected and any further disruption of the delicate balance of atmospheric gases may lead to abrupt climate change, if it has not done so already.
On Friday, at a ceremony being planned at UN headquarters on Earth Day, April 22, delegates from 155 countries will sign the agreement worked out at the Paris 2015 climate conference. Over 60 heads of state plan to attend to personally sign their country's non-binding pledges. The goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) or missing that, below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), requires all countries to submit plans for climate action and to update them every five years. But the grim reality is that atmospheric, land and ocean conditions are quickly deteriorating and the Paris deal does far too little to make a significant positive change.
NASA reported that January to March was the hottest three-month start of any year on record. This beats the previous record set in 2015 by an alarming 0.7 degreesF (0.39 degreesC). Compared with the 20th-century average, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) reported that March was 1.07C hotter across the globe, while February was 1.04C higher. Every one of the past 11 months has been the hottest ever recorded for that month.
The biggest warming is occurring in the Arctic which did not have much of a winter this past season. The winter peak of the ice cap was the smallest ever recorded, down to 14.52m sq km (5.6m sq mi). The Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice. And high temperatures over Greenland has already started the summer melt season with 12 percent of the ice sheet melting by Monday, beating the previous record by a month.
These global temperature and ice records indicate how perilously close humans are to entering an era of abrupt climate change. In fact, one eminent biologist and environmental scientist who helped in the eradication of smallpox, claims that humans will be extinct in 100 years. Even if his scenario is far-fetched, the falling records show the urgency of reducing over-consumption and climate-altering emissions.
Most of the country pledges in the Paris Agreement are aiming for a 2 percent annual decrease in carbon emissions and many will actually be increasing their pollution. The snail's pace of mitigation is totally inadequate and benefits only corporate climate polluters who can continue their business-as-usual policies largely unabated. The climate is unraveling fast and diet is an important part of the solution, but it is largely dismissed at the negotiating table. And, even though l ivestock is the second-leading cause of global warming, it is ignored in the national pledges.
Most people are unaware of the full extent of their diet's climate impacts and their leaders are focused on facilitating expansion, not reduction. The production of food animals release carbon dioxide, and far more potent methane and nitrous oxide gases, and production is set to rise 70 percent by 2050. The spread of the Western animal-based diet globally alone will result in exceeding the Paris climate targets. The widespread adoption of vegetarian and vegan diets could save millions of lives, trillion of dollars, and help to save the planet from global warming. But the window for effective personal and planetary change is closing.
The struggle for a livable future involves changing our personal dietary habits and resisting the neoliberal model of over-consumption that is rapidly cooking the planet. This earth day, we all need to seriously deal with the reality facing the fragile atmosphere and resolve to lower our climate-footprints as much as we can by traveling less and eating more plant-based foods. Waiting for leaders to change and act is a recipe for disaster.
(Article changed on April 18, 2016 at 12:56)