The Malta Independent 29 January 2023, Sunday
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The storm ahead

Sunday, 15 January 2023, 07:42 Last update: about 14 days ago

Alexander Mangion

We are living one of the strangest winters of our lives. Malta normally boasts very temperate winters, in fact it often is one of the country’s strongest selling points to visitors from the North who choose to get away from their chilly countries round this time of the year.

But those of us who were waiting to don their brand-new coats and heavy woollens, remained disappointed, as they likely showed up to Christmas lunch in t-shirts and a light jacket at best. It has certainly been a very warm winter so far, with the odd spot of swimming on our beaches, far from being ruled out.

But, while this makes for the perfect Instagram post, a much more worrying reality hides behind the beautiful skies of blue. Our climate, together with that of the rest of the world is changing, and we may be footing the bill for it sooner rather than later.

While our winters are delightful, we are already experiencing harsher hotter summers, accompanied by plummeting rainfall rates as well as other considerable shifts in weather elements such as level of evaporation, relative humidity and winds. All these elements are having an effect on our agriculture, energy demand as well as our health in general. Experts predict that an increase in global average temperature of 2 degrees Celsius will sound an alarm for food scarcity.

In Malta temperature fluctuations have also followed a similar upward trend, breaking records, and the likelihood is that we shall continue to see the same trend in the coming months and years.

Evidently, we need to take action immediately. Malta’s drive towards cleaner energy, and carbon neutrality, definitely points in the right direction, but more can be done. We saw how the world sprung into action in March of 2020 when COVID was threatening the economy, and how that state of emergency led to unprecedented action. The same volume of energy and enthusiasm needs to be dedicated this state of emergency, which might not have the same shocking factor as COVID did, but it certainly will, given enough time.

A transition to a zero-carbon economy could have multiple wide-ranging positive effects and long-term gains, on a number of levels.

According to the WHO, if all member states in the European region implemented their proposed actions and measures to achieve commitments made under the Paris Agreement, the health co-benefits of such action would include the avoidance of 138,000 premature deaths annually, potentially resulting in savings of US$ 244–564 billion per year.

We may not be realising it, but climate change can have a devastating effect on all aspects of our health and everyday lives. Climate change affects the most basic health requirements such as clean air, safe water, sufficient food and adequate shelter. It also poses new challenges to the control of infectious diseases, and gradually increases the pressure on the natural, economic and social systems that sustain health.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that society in general is appreciating what really is at stake. We need to raise more awareness about the real threat of climate change, and advocate for wide-ranging action at all levels. We need to help all members of our society to engage in meaningful behavioural change that will contribute towards the reduction of green house gas emissions. We need policy makers who inspire by leading the way in this journey.

Let’s start making our own little part by changing our habits, as well as lobbying our politicians to take decisive action.

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