imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

Is earth almost ‘unlivable’ by 2070?

Last April, I attended my first ever webinar (web seminar) sponsored by Greenducation Philippines spearheaded by a UPian by the name of Sharmaine Lizada, a young environmentalist working for the reversal of this climate change. The webinar focused specifically on the ten frames in greening the future and how everybody can help in curtailing global warming. Among the ten frames are the zero use of plastic, urban gardening, making organic fertilizer, reforestation, info- sharing, and joining groups that work against climate change.

And why not?

One of the most alarming news that hit the papers today is not just this pandemic. A headline says: “Billions projected to suffer unlivable heat by 2070.”

That’s 50 years from now, fellas.

The prediction sends shivers to the spine. This May, we hit the 50 degrees Celsius mark.  Heat Index, sometimes referred to as the apparent temperature, is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored with the actual air temperature.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has recorded the following areas with the highest heat index so far: San Jose City, Occidental Mindoro- 58 degrees Celsius (April 20);

Butuan City, Agusan Del Norte- 53 degrees Celsius (May 6); Ambulong, Bangas- 51 degrees Celsius ( May 6); Sangley Point, Cavite- 51 degrees Celsius (May 6); Dagupan City, Pangasinan- 51 degrees Celsius (May 5).

PAGASA warns that heat index values between 41 and 54 degrees Celsius are likely to cause heat cramps and heat exhaustion, which might lead to a heat stroke with continued activity. A heat index over 54 degrees means a heat stroke is imminent.

Soaring ahead to Year 2070, the following predictions are made by scientists:

 In just 50 years, 2 to 3.5 billion people, mostly the poor who can’t afford air conditioning, will be living in a climate that historically has been too hot to handle, a new study said. With every 1.8 degree increase in global average annual temperature from man-made climate change, about a billion or so people will end up in areas too warm to be habitable without cooling technology, according to ecologist Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Under the worst-case scenarios for population growth and for carbon pollution—which many climate scientists say is looking less likely these days—the study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts about 3.5 billion people, which is a third of the projected 2070 population, will live in extremely hot areas.

If global warming continues unchecked, the heat that’s coming later this century in some parts of the world will bring “nearly unlivable” conditions for up to 3 billion people. Climate scientists predict that by 2070, much of the world’s population is likely to live in climate conditions that are “warmer than conditions deemed suitable for human life to flourish.” The study warned that unless greenhouse gas emissions are curtailed, average annual temperatures will rise beyond the climate “niche” in which humans have thrived for 6,000 years.

As a review, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas releases “greenhouse” gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane into earth’s atmosphere and oceans. The emissions have caused the planet’s temperatures to rise to levels that cannot be explained by natural factors. Temperatures over the next few decades are projected to increase rapidly as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions. 

Without climate mitigation, by 2070, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to average annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today. These brutally hot climate conditions are currently experienced by just 0.8% of the global land surface, mostly in the hottest parts of the Sahara Desert, but by 2070 the conditions could spread to 19% of the earth’s land area which includes large portions of northern Africa, the Middle East, northern South America, South Asia, and parts of Australia. 

“Large areas of the planet would heat to barely survivable levels and they wouldn’t cool down again,” said study co-author Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “Not only would this have devastating direct effects; it leaves societies less able to cope with future crises like new pandemics. The only thing that can stop this happening is a rapid cut in carbon emissions.”

Governments should give these predictions a second look if we want our children to live and enjoy life beyond 2070.

If we have endured months of Extreme Community Quarantine (ECQ), we can always work for the preservation of our planet.

One of the more inspiring stories in mitigating climate change pertains to Thimmakka and Chikkanna. Very conspicuous are the three hundred towering avenue trees on the Kudur-Hulikal Road in Karnataka, India. All of them were planted and cared for by an elderly couple, 

Thimmakka was born about eighty years ago in Gubbi and married Chikkanna of Hulikal at an early age. They were landless laborers working on farmlands. Thimmakka could not have children and the couple were often lonely in the evenings. Chikkanna kept thinking of ‘something to do’ with their lives. About fifty years ago they decided to plant trees on the main road to Kudur. They wanted to provide shade for the villagers, who had to walk often on the hot and dusty road. They chose the peepul (or peepal) tree, created a small nursery, and began planting the saplings. They built thorn guards around the saplings, watered them daily until they took root. They tended the trees until they were ten years old.  

Every year they planted fifteen to twenty trees, until they had covered the entire stretch of four kilometers. They took care of the trees as if they were their children. In fact, Chikkanna quit working and devoted himself full-time to this task. The trees grew tall and have been providing shade for the road users and shelter for many birds and animals.

Chikkanna died in 1990. Thimmakka has received many awards like the National Citizen’s Award in 1995 and the Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award in 1997. Now she sits alone in her little house with the picture of Chikkanna. These couple may just be small dots in the map but they have done more than any other couple in the world in their humblest way of saving Planet Earth.