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Earth Day amid the scourge of climate change

Today is the celebration of Earth Day, organized through the initiative of Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin in 1970.  Since then, 45 years ago, countries of the world united to celebrate Earth Day to protect the abundance and promote the beauty of the Earth.

Today, however, Earth Day has become an observance of all 194 countries to save Mother Earth from ultimate disaster – climate change - unless mankind can reduce and finally remove Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the atmosphere.

Since 200 years ago, when man started to use machines, we have been burning fossil fuels – coal and oil – to produce electricity for our development and comfort.  The process of producing electricity has produced CO2, methane, black carbon from diesel, and other GHGs which last for at least 150 years in the atmosphere. 

From the report of the United Nations science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is now a concentration of 3,100 billion metric tons of GHGs in the atmosphere that brought about the overheating of the Earth to 1.3˚C higher than before the industrial revolution.  This overheating of the Earth is the cause of melting of the North Pole and the South Pole, the rising of the oceans, and severe and more frequent typhoons and storms, including the widespread vector-borne diseases – dengue and malaria – of which there is currently an alarming increase in the number of cases in the Philippines.

Unless we reduce CO2, the heating will continue and if it reaches 2˚C, mankind cannot stop this heating anymore.  An overheated Earth will see the gradual death of corrals and reduction of fish life – the principal source of protein for the human brain.  It could mean the gradual destruction of human civilization.

Earth Day must be a consciousness awakening to protect life, to reduce CO2, to reduce the overheating of the Earth. 

To avoid climate catastrophe, governments, communities, individuals, must all join hands to reduce CO2.  Rapid carbon cuts are the only way to stop severe impact of climate change.

We reduce CO2 by using more clean and renewable sources of energy.  We reduce GHGs by managing our garbage, by reducing wasteful and excessive consumption, by managing our excessive lifestyle.  Governments should promote a dramatic shift in policy to use alternative fuels systematically.

Earth Day must be a celebration to protect human life and to save future generations from the destructive impacts of climate change due to the overheating of the Earth.

Earth Day must be a day to raise consciousness to save Mother Earth.


Former Senator Heherson Alvarez is a commissioner of the Climate Change Commission.

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