Global warming is one of the most pressing issues affecting our planet and all living things on it. It endangers life itself. This climate phenomenon—the Earth’s atmosphere getting warmer and warmer—appears to have begun only within the past 50 years. Scientists have been admonishing us for some time now that this global crisis—the Earth’s gradually rising temperature—appears to be directly related to man’s never-ending quest to manufacture and consume all kinds of consumer goods and products. They range from the millions of cars and trucks that endlessly guzzle fossil fuel, to the millions of other consumer goods and products that bombard the consuming public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We have seen with increasing regularity over the past two decades very depressing pictures of cities and towns that are completely covered by dark and heavy air pollution. Thick air pollution is constantly being discharged from the huge smokestacks of thousands of manufacturing plants and facilities in America, China, Mexico, India, and other manufacturing countries around the world. These manufacturing plants produce the countless number of products that we consume daily.
Industrial cities and towns struggle during daytime, without much success, to see the sunlight that has been completely shut out by the pervasive and thick smog and air pollution being generated by these manufacturing facilities. Such filthy and hazardous air has inundated industrial towns and cities as well as their surrounding vicinity. This carbon-based pollution also affects the entire Earth’s atmosphere, which serves as a “buffer” between the Earth and the strong, radioactive rays of the sun. It is frightening to know that the health of the roughly seven billion people on Earth is being directly compromised by the gradual rise in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere—all in the name of human consumption and making money.
As a result of man’s gross negligence, wanton disregard, and abuse of his stewardship of the Earth and its natural resources, we are now beginning to see the continuing, irreparable harm caused by man himself. The harmful effects of global warming have reached that point where it has already started to inflict harm on all living things on this planet. And that includes man himself.
Every year, we find that the Earth’s atmosphere is getting not just warmer but hotter as well. Whoever denies that the Earth is getting warmer every year is willfully lying or there is something wrong or abnormal with his sense of reality. Indeed, we have already seen and experienced first-hand the harmful effects of global warming: the destructive hurricanes and typhoons in the Pacific and the Atlantic; the huge forest fires in California, Oregon, and the rest of the Pacific Northwest; the destructive floods that have destroyed lives and property in America, Europe, India, Asia, and Germany just recently; and the many earthquakes registering between 6.0 to over 7.0 on the Richter scale—in Japan, Alaska, Mexico, Chile, Indonesia, and Haiti just recently.
All of mankind should by now be aware of the destructive consequences of global warming. It is no longer an issue of whether global warming is real or not because it is not a hoax. It has already reached that stage where we need to do something to stop the onslaught of global warming. Man’s activities on Earth are the proximate cause of global warming. We started it and we must now stop it because our very survival is on the line. And this time, the theory of “survival of the fittest” that Charles Darwin espoused about 150 years ago might no longer be true. This time, the Earth itself may no longer be able to sustain life, including those which evolve.
Is this what we want to happen? Of course not. That is why it is imperative that we must collectively act to reverse the effect of global warming. The danger to man’s existence here on Earth will most likely not be nuclear holocaust; it would be economic greed that stems from man’s unrelenting abuse of the natural resources here on Earth. We do not want to see the low-lying islands right here in Micronesia and the Pacific disappear in the next decade or two. The Marshall Islands are clearly at risk, as well as Tuvalu and the Maldives.
It is personally inspiring to see during the past several years the appearance on the world stage of so many young people taking the lead to make the world aware of the dangers of global warming to everyone. Young leaders like the daring and inspirational Greta Thunberg of Sweden and the forceful climate-change youth advocate from the Marshall Islands, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, come to mind. Let us hope that government and industrial leaders from every country on this planet join hands and take concrete steps to begin the active process of stopping global warming.
As many of us already know, the biggest culprit causing global warming is the use of fossil fuel by man to operate its manufacturing and industrial plants; to power automobiles, trucks, ships and planes; to produce electricity, and so forth. We know that there are clean sources of energy that man could use instead. These sources of energy do not emit carbon dioxide that create the so-called “greenhouse gas” effect. The increase in carbon dioxide in the Earth’s upper atmosphere creates a shield (like a greenhouse) in the atmosphere, which in turn traps the extremely powerful energy and heat from the sun that bounce back after hitting Earth. But the trapped heat and energy from the sun cannot go back into space. It remains inside the Earth’s atmosphere and causes our entire atmosphere to get warmer.
This is the reason why climate change advocates urge that we use energy that does not produce carbon dioxide. Alternative energy sources include solar energy, hydroelectric, and wind energy. By turning to clean energy sources for our energy needs, and by stopping our reliance on fossil fuel for energy production, we will hopefully begin to reverse and eliminate global warming at some point in the future. We will also hopefully begin to see less powerful storms, fewer forest fires, fewer earthquakes, less flooding, and fewer casualties to living things such as fish and other ocean lives that die whenever the ocean temperature rises.
Jose S. Dela Cruz is a former chief justice of the NMI Supreme Court.