By: Dr David Pearton
This year’s Earth Hour comes just after the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a catastrophic global event with an unimaginable toll in human lives and livelihoods. Research has shown that the origins of the pandemic is tied to the continuing loss of biodiversity caused by human action and climate change. Along with the increase in climate related extreme events such as wildfires, floods, and droughts the events of the past few years have graphically illustrated how fragile and interdependent the natural world and human civilization are.
The loss of biodiversity and destruction of life sustaining ecosystems is visible all around us, but nowhere more clearly than in the world’s tropical coral reefs. Home to over 25% of the organisms in the sea these beautiful and intricate ecosystems support the livelihoods millions of people in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.
Corals have declined by over 50% in the last 50 years and this loss is accelerating with marine heatwaves and global coral bleaching events becoming more and more frequent as global temperatures continue to rise. The latest projections from the IPCC suggest that we will lose over 99% of corals worldwide with just 2 °C warming. The current CO2 emissions trajectory and global pledges under the Paris Agreement are insufficient to keep warming under this level, let alone the 1.5 °C that has been globally acknowledged as a “safe” level of warming.
So, for Earth Hour this year, rather than turning off the lights for an hour – we have ESKOM who can do that for us – lets resolve to ensure that our elected representatives and policy makers commit to meaningful changes such as the promotion of renewable energy and the decarbonization of the economy rather than locking us in to a carbon-intensive future thereby ensuring the loss of our coral reefs and other vulnerable ecosystems and escalating human misery.