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Earth Day: Urgent action needed to combat climate change and save the planet

People in Sea Point try to cool down in the heat in front of a Cape fur seal. From the extreme heat waves in the Western Cape to the floods in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa appears to already be facing the dangerous effects of climate change. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

People in Sea Point try to cool down in the heat in front of a Cape fur seal. From the extreme heat waves in the Western Cape to the floods in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa appears to already be facing the dangerous effects of climate change. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 22, 2022

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Cape Town - To commemorate Earth Day, which is celebrated annually on April 22, environmentalists made it clear that climate change was here and needed urgent action from all spheres of society as extreme weather events, crop failures, supply chain disruptions, and food insecurity persisted.

Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner Thandile Chinyavanhu said: “Climate change is unfolding violently before our eyes. It is not imminent – it is happening now. Experts concur that the impacts are occurring at a faster pace than previously assessed.

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“There are complex drivers behind our weather patterns, and rising global temperatures have disrupted these systems.”

Chinyavanhu said the scenes from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) were a demonstration of how climate change threatened to disrupt every aspect of life.

Jako Volschenk, a Stellenbosch Business School senior lecturer in strategy and sustainability, agreed. He said Earth Day called attention to the urgent need for the world to wean itself off fossil fuels to mitigate the impact of climate change.

“If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically by 2030, humanity will have little chance of limiting the impact of climate change as the 21st century progresses, putting the Earth on course for mass extinction, which humans are unlikely to survive,” he said.

Volschenk said southern Africa was already highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as warm and dry regions were projected to become even warmer and drier, with warming in the interior of the region increasing at twice the global rate.

“As average temperatures get hotter, the likelihood of extreme weather events also increases substantially, and apart from the risks of catastrophic damage to infrastructure, these extreme weather events are also associated with diseases like diarrhoea, malaria and even liver and kidney failure,” he said.

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Volschenk said the floods in KZN and the many consequences that would be seen over the next weeks and months were a case in point.

Chinyavanhu said the government needed to recognise the socio-economic imperative behind climate action and Greenpeace Africa urged it to declare a climate emergency to unlock resources to implement contingency plans to mitigate further harm.

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