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State of the Planet

On Tuesday 2nd December, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, in a speech at Columbia University, New York, described the ‘The state of our planet as broken’. He continued that ‘humanity is waging war on nature and this is suicidal. Nature always strikes back and is now doing so with increasing force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing, ecosystems are disappearing, deserts are spread and oceans are choking with plastic waste. Making peace with nature will be the defining task of the 21st century. The central objective of the UN in 2021 will be to build a truly global coalition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Every country, city, town and company should adopt plans for the transition to net zero emissions. He urged everyone to take decisive action now and to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 which would require a year on year reduction of 6%.

On the same day, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) released reports to which Guterres referred.

State of the global climate (WMO)

In spite of the C virus pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise, not only carbon dioxide, but also concentrations of methane and nitrous oxides. Amongst other indicators of the changing climate were –

  • 2020 was one of the 3 hottest years ever recorded
  • The warmest six years have all been since 2014
  • The past decade was the hottest in human history
  • Ocean heat was at record levels inflicting harm on marine ecosystems
  • Parts of the Artic experienced exceptional warmth some 5 C above the long term average
  • Oceans were becoming more acidic

Petteri Taalas, Secretary General, WMO observed that the over riding concern is that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean, even longer. The last time the Earth experienced such carbon dioxide concentrations was 3 – 5 million years ago when the average global temperature was 2 -3 C hotter and sea levels some 10 – 20 metres higher.

State of knowledge on soil biodiversity (FAO)

A quarter of all species live in the ground beneath our feet and provide nutrients for all our food. The FAO authors observe that ‘soil organisms play a crucial role in our everyday life by working to sustain life on Earth. The available evidence indicates that a large proportion of the Earth’s surface has been degraded as the result of human activity. The main causes of damage are intensive agriculture, destruction of natural habitats and changes in climate. There was an ever increasing need to protect existing healthy soils and restore degraded soils.



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