SOS — Save Our Seas

Rising sea levels will displace hundreds of millions of coastal residents from their homes by this century. If we don’t take action to curb emissions, the rise could be as much as 60- 110cm by 2100.

Oct 05, 2019

By Anil Netto
This has got to be the quote of the year:

“You have stolen my dreams and my

childhood with your empty words –
and yet I am one of the lucky ones. People
are suffering, people are dying, entire
ecosystems are collapsing. We are
in the beginning of a mass extinction,
and all you can talk about is money and
fairy tales of eternal economic growth.
How dare you!

That was 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking at the opening of the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 recently.

Youths staged protests in Kuala Lumpur and Penang as they joined hundreds of millions of other young people around the world protesting against world leaders’ lethargic action in tackling climate change.

Polar ice sheets and glaciers are melting at a faster rate. Sea levels are now rising twice as fast – 3.6mm per year — as they were last century, and the rate is accelerating.

Rising sea levels will displace hundreds of millions of coastal residents from their homes by this century. If we don’t take action to curb emissions, the rise could be as much as 60- 110cm by 2100.

Global warming has reached a stage where we will soon see more flooding, powerful storms and long dry spells. Strong tropical cyclones and rainstorms will lead to more coastal hazards and flooding risks.

The ocean is absorbing 90 per cent of the heat in the climate system. “Ocean warming reduces mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life,” observed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Ocean warming and acidification, loss of oxygen and changes in nutrient supplies, are already affecting the distribution and abundance of marine life in coastal areas, in the open ocean and at the sea floor.”

Already in Penang, we have seen some unusual phenomena happening in the coastal waters, killing tens of thousands of fish. No matter what the cause, we should be doing all we can to protect our fisheries – not ruining our coastal waters with massive land reclamation.

It can no longer be business as usual. Unfortunately, countries around the world have taken only half-hearted, lukewarm measures to reduce their carbon footprint and emissions.

In Malaysia, we need to boost food security, protect our forests and fishing waters, and keep carbon in the ground.

This also means promoting public transport and not building more and more highways for more and more cars. We should be building more buses, trains and ferries to boost our public transport infrastructure (while also creating green-friendly jobs) – instead of creating a whole new third car industry.

We need to stop being obsessed with “GDP growth” and the amount of “FDI” (foreign direct investment) received. Both these measures fail to consider the type of jobs created; the level of wages paid; how profits, income and wealth are distributed; the social and ecological costs; the natural resources depleted and the pollution and emissions generated.

Take one silly example: digging a hole in the ground and then filling it up with earth will actually increase economic activity – but does it help society at large?

Or in the case of an oil spill, the resources used to clear the mess and the effort spent to contain the pollution will increase economic activity – but is society (and marine life) actually better off?

Or if we pave the ground with tar, concrete and asphalt, and when the rain falls and the ground is unable to absorb much water, flood risks are heightened. Then, we have to spend millions more on “flood mitigation” measures. All this will raise economic activity. But is society better off?

We may have more manufacturing and mining activities, but what happens if these generate more emissions and toxic waste? Are we better off?

The point is, higher GDP growth and more FDI may not always be positive for the nation and the people’s wellbeing – so we need to look at alternative indexes to measure quality of life and wellbeing.

Back to climate change, with such a grim future ahead for the world’s oceans and seas, it is no wonder that the Bishop of Rome invited us last month to pray that people work together to “protect the world’s seas and oceans”.

This is the full text of his message:

Oceans contain the bulk of our planet’s
water supply, and also most of the
immense variety of living creatures,
many of them are threatened for various
reasons.
Creation is a project of love given by
God to humanity.
Our solidarity with the “common
home” is born from our faith.
Let us pray this month that politicians,
scientists and economists work
together to protect the world’s seas and
oceans.

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