PEOPLE NEED to enhance their knowledge about the environment and demand action against climate change, said young environmental activist Greta Thunberg while virtually interacting with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, and climate change scientists Sunday during a livestream event.
During a discussion on ‘The Crisis of Climate Feedback Loops’ – self-perpetuating natural warming systems which feed upon themselves to amplify – at a webcast organised by the Mind and Life Institute, she said: “We need to educate ourselves to understand the global processes linked to the climate crisis, to see what’s happening to our planet. People must learn as much as they can – there’s unlimited amount of information – and spread this information to create a social movement and shift the social norm. Because if we are enough people who demand change and advocate climate action, we will reach a critical mass and will no longer be possible to ignore.”
“It’s not a small task but it’s something that we simply need to do because there’s no other option. Restoring Nature is not only a solution to the climate crisis, but also to the biodiversity crisis and so on,” added Thunberg.
Speaking during the event, the Dalai Lama said that all 7.8 billion humans must act as a singe community to battle the climate crisis, and shed their past habits of thinking of themselves as part of a small circle of individuals. “According to today’s reality, thinking in terms of ‘my self, my family, my nation’ has become unrealistic. An individual’s future is now linked to the entire humanity and planet, to a happier humanity and a healthier world,” he said, adding that it’s an encouraging sign that young people like Thunberg are genuinely concerned for the future of the planet.
He further said that when he was young, he saw plenty of snow in the high mountains of Tibet but it had started decreasing gradually, and a similar trend is noticeable around Dharamshala, his present home. “Eventually Tibet may become a desert, some scientists say,” he said. The Dalai Lama suggested that areas such as Australia and Western Africa which have vast deserts may start converting sea water into potable water on a large scale to support human populations and cultivation in desert areas.
Susan Natali, an Arctic scientist, said that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, due to which its permafrost is thawing. The permafrost contains a large amount of carbon, which is twice the carbon currently present in the atmosphere. As the icy expanse melts, the newly-released organic matter in the soil, which had remained frozen for thousands of years, is now being decomposed by microbes, leading to release of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. These heat-trapping gases further warm the atmosphere, which leads to more permafrost thaw and so on, thus creating a positive feedback loop. Natali added that permafrost thaw is not being taken into account by policy-makers while setting global carbon emission targets.
Similar self-perpetuating warming processes are being witnessed in the forests across the planet, said William Moomaw, who has authored several ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ (IPCC) reports. He said destruction of forests and global warming are accelerating each other, leading to more droughts, pests, diseases and wildfires, such as the massive fires witnessed in Australia and western USA last
The scientists warned that these feedback loops may reach a tipping point, following which the carbon sinks such as forests may actually become a source of carbon dioxide as their organic matter gets released into the air, and this may result in irreversible warming of the planet. Fortunately, they said, these feedback loops can be reversed, and if emissions are cut, deforestation halted and the earth re-greened, the reversed mechanism may begin to automatically cool the planet.