Other burning questions
“The protection of our climate is not everything, but without the protection of our climate, everything is nothing“, says German economist Niko Paech. Climate change has become a main drive for many other ecological problems and can therefore not be ignored by anyone who wants to talk seriously about a livable future for all beings on planet earth.
For instance, rising temperatures are putting ecosystems under stress and lead to higher extinction rates of species. Another example are weather extremes occuring more frequently, which can lead to both long periods of rain (floodings, crop failures, degradation of soils) and long periods without rain (drought, wild fires, crop failures). In some cases, the damages cause further greenhouse gas emissions, which then lead to an accelerated climate change.
Nonetheless, climate change is by far not the only ecological crises we are facing. In the following, I am just naming some of the other ecological crises we are facing.
Extinction of Life
The current extinction rate of species is 100 to 1000 times higher than natural, possibly leading to a new mass extinction. But not only are species going extinct, now existing species also face dramatic declines in population numbers. E.g. of all now-living mammals on earth, by now only 4 % are wild animals, the other 96 % are made up by livestock and humans.
Intensive agriculture is degrading vast parts of the world’s soils, leading to an increasing pressure on remaining arable land and rising greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. In my home country Germany about one third of the groundwater bodies are already contaminated with nitrates from intensive livestock.
Phosphorus is a chemical element that is essential for plants. It is a natural component of soils, but conventional, intensive agriculture has applied a wasteful use of this resource, so that it has to be mined and exported from the deposits constantly. Experts say, world production could reach a peak around the year 2030 and the deposits around the world could be exhausted in 50-100 years.
Every year we dump about 8 million tons of plastic into the oceans, creating a whole continent of plastic waste, 50 times the size of Taiwan, 5 times the size of Germany). Going on likethis, projections show there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. This plastic is entering the food chains and is a major factor in killing marine life.