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12° Nicosia,
02 February, 2023
 
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The red warning from the beaches of Protaras

In terms of climate change, we are now at the same point as we were with the pandemic a few years ago

by Demetris Lottides

First and foremost, let me state that I am not an environmental expert. As an active citizen, I am recording my concerns about the changes brought about by climate change, as well as the potential it may have for our country if we act quickly and comprehensively. My opinions are the result of many hours of relevant reading and discussions with experts and ordinary people.

According to the World Bank, the cost of climate change damage to coastal cities worldwide now exceeds one trillion dollars per year.

In terms of climate change, we are now where we were with the pandemic a few years ago. For years, scientists have warned that a deadly global pandemic was unavoidable. Governments, the media, the private sector, and healthcare systems had all been ignored. Just as we were unprepared for the impending pandemic, we are now unprepared for the effects of climate change on our daily lives. World leaders agreed in 2015 to "dramatically reduce pollutants" by 2030. A lofty goal for a variety of reasons, most notably the world's reliance on cheap energy produced by fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal).

The dramatic images of Protaras' red beach are a clear warning that the consequences of climate change are not a distant problem of America freezing over and Europe experiencing unprecedented drought, but that the destabilization of the earth's climate and the consequences it brings is already present in Cyprus. The planet's average temperature is expected to rise by 1 degree Celsius since the pre-industrial era. This is a massive sum. Consider that during the ice age, the average global temperature was estimated to be minus 6 degrees Celsius lower than it is today and that during the dinosaur era, when crocodiles roamed the Arctic Circle, the average global temperature was approximately 4 degrees higher than it is today!  Carbon dioxide emissions, the primary cause of the greenhouse effect (along with other gases like methane), are estimated to be 51 billion tonnes per year, far more than the planet can absorb. Global warming is unevenly distributed, with some regions or countries already experiencing average increases of close to two degrees. This inhomogeneity is determined by the country's microclimate, but most importantly by the soil's ability to retain moisture by absorbing temperature. Unfortunately, our country is not one of the natural habitats.

We must acknowledge that climate models are not perfect, because the climate is a multidimensional dynamic phenomenon with infinite parameters, but scientists predict that if current emissions of 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per year continue, we will see an increase of 1-3 degrees Celsius around the middle of the century. That will be in 25 years! In short, we have reached a tipping point where the current generation may regard life on Earth as unsustainable. What exactly does this mean? We'll either have high temperatures or floods. Does this sound familiar?

The dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was one of the few positive aspects of our country's 2013 economic crisis. Cyprus went from being an emissions champion in 2008, with 7-8 tonnes of emissions per capita, to 5.5 tonnes in 2013, with a European average of 6-7 tonnes. The steady and significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions in Cyprus, which peaked in 2017 at 6.1 tonnes per capita, is a negative result of the current 10-year governance that is mortgaging this and the next generation. Pre-pandemic Cyprus emitted 9.5 thousand tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2019, while Europe significantly reduced its own emissions.  As a result, extremely high temperatures are becoming more common in our country. The deadly fires of two years ago, as well as the extremely high temperatures of recent years, have been followed by winter floods.

There are no quick fixes. They are multifaceted and multidimensional, but first, we must warn of more droughts and floods. As a result, the country must prepare. The United Nations has established the 'Global Climate Change Adaptation Programme,' which is co-chaired by Bill Gates and our well-known Ban Ki-moon, to fund civil protection programs and infrastructure for protection against extreme natural events. To summarize, we must invest in early warning systems for weather phenomena, staff the relevant services, and rapidly double fire-fighting and rescue measures and resources. Our coastal towns' architectural and urban planning approaches to flooding must be reconsidered.  The floods in Protaras, though spectacular, are deadly and may be caused by unchecked construction, but they are not the only cause. They are primarily caused by a change in the data for which the infrastructure was designed. According to the World Bank, the cost of climate change damage to coastal cities worldwide now exceeds one trillion dollars per year. In a nutshell, today it is Protaras, tomorrow it will be Limassol, and the day after tomorrow it will be Paphos.

According to the World Bank, countries with climate-neutral governments and businesses will be the world's economic leaders in the coming years. Because of its size and geographical location, Cyprus has the potential to be a global leader in renewable energy innovation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and preserving and developing the environment, which serves as a natural laboratory for absorbing heat and pollutants. To accomplish this, a ten-year plan must be developed that focuses on:

a) Freezing the expansion of cities, which obliterates the soil's capacity to naturally absorb heat.

b) The use of electricity in all human activities that require energy.

c) Generating enough energy from renewable sources, primarily solar, to meet daily needs while storing surpluses.

(d) Combining stored solar park energy with the use of natural gas generators to generate electricity at night and on cloudy days.

(e) Converting agricultural production to new varieties that need little to no water for irrigation.

f) Implementing stricter operating procedures in energy- and emissions-intensive industries like cement, plastic, and iron.

* Mr. Dimitris Lottidis is the editor of Kathimerini Cyprus.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Sources: European Environment Agency, World Bank, UN World adaptation program, Bill Gates ‘How to avoid a climate disaster’

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Cyprus  |  environment  |  climate

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