Climate Change Is a Planetary Emergency — How Can We Avert Disaster?
We have already crossed a number of 'tipping points' in the Earth system; vital thresholds beyond which irreversible and catastrophic consequences for all life on this planet will ensue. The impacts of climate change and ecological destruction are more severe and are manifesting themselves earlier than many scientific predictions in previous decades had foreseen. Without major interventions, the risks will soon reach a critical stage.
For 10,000 years, human civilization has grown and thrived because of the Earth's remarkable climate stability and rich biological diversity. Astonishingly, every year since the Industrial Revolution, land-based and ocean ecosystems have absorbed close to half of all our emissions from fossil-fuel burning. That's because the climate, and the natural ecosystems which regulate it and all life on earth, are inextricably linked. In fact, species diversity and ecosystems integrity play a fundamental role in regulating the climate, water cycles, carbon sequestration and food production. Without nature's ability to absorb and store our GHG emissions, we would have already exceeded 2 C of warming, with potentially disastrous consequences decades ago.
The simple fact is, we don't know how to reconstruct the cryosphere, the hydrological cycle, the rainforests, coral reefs and other life-support systems on Earth. Once the emergency fully manifests, it will simply be too late to reverse the breakdown. Collapse will cease to be something we can control. Collapse will no longer be a mere hypothetical; it will be a near certainty. Put bluntly, this is the greatest existential risk facing modern human civilization.
It is, without doubt, our patterns of economic growth, development, production and consumption which are pushing the Earth's life-support systems beyond their natural boundaries. We depend so fundamentally on these ecosystems. And yet it is we who are the very drivers of their demise. It is we who are pushing the systems which support life on Earth beyond their natural boundaries. It is we who are causing severe changes in weather patterns and wreaking untold destruction in the shape of wildfires from the Amazon to Australia, and violent storms from Mozambique to Barbados, to name but a few. And while a great majority of governments and corporations continue to twiddle their thumbs in what amounts to outright denial of the facts, the risks of collapse
Climate change is a risk to us all. World Economic Forum
It is time for another reality check: our unhealthy consumption and growth habits have not only 'tipped' ecosystems but have also created severe 'socio-economic' hotspots and greater inequality in both mature and emerging economies. The emergency is not just about ecological breakdown. It is also about societal breakdown and acknowledging that as we urgently address the climate and biodiversity risks, we must simultaneously build new economic, social and financial systems which foster well-being and regeneration rather than unbridled economic growth and consumption at all costs.
Calls for a new growth paradigm and growth indicators were already made in the 1960s by President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy. In 1972, the seminal work by The Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth, laid out the price of progress from socio-economic, financial to environmental tipping points. These are predictions which hold true today.
Governments and businesses around the world habitually set out emergency response plans to protect their economies, jobs, cities and other crucial assets from potential disaster. All leaders must now do the same. They must acknowledge that this is the greatest existential risk facing humanity, while showing that we can emerge from emergency. The Club of Rome's Planetary Emergency Plan provides a new compass for nations as they navigate through 2020 — a critical year for international policy action with key decisions due on climate change, biodiversity, the oceans, and the SDGs — and beyond.
The Plan calls for the implementation of 10 commitments to safeguard and restore our global commons, from halting the decline of critical land-based and ocean ecosystems to providing financial mechanisms for shifting to regenerative land-use practices and enabling indigenous and local communities to secure their livelihoods. It also highlights the need for a new multilateral Planetary Emergency Fund to rapidly address elements of the crisis, as unavoidable impacts manifest. Crucially, it then outlines 10 key levers of change for transforming energy systems, shifting to a circular economy and guaranteeing a just and equitable society founded in human and ecological well-being.
History has shown humanity to be remarkably resilient. We are well adapted to respond to impending risks through cooperation and innovation. What's more, the opportunities to not only mitigate risks and avert disaster, but also to rebuild, improve and regenerate are readily available. The Planetary Emergency Plan comes at a crucial moment. A moment when the world can bend the curve, avert the impending disaster and opt instead to embark on the fastest and most exciting social and economic transformation in human history.
Sandrine Dixson-Declève is Co-President of the Club of Rome, a member of the Climate-KIC Advisory Council, and Ambassador for the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC).
The Club of Rome is an organization made up of notable scientists, economists, business leaders, civil society members and public figures, aims to promote understanding of the global challenges facing humanity and to propose solutions through scientific analysis, communication and advocacy.
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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