The issues of climate change and global warming appear to be taking centre stage once more. This is partly due to a number of events like extreme weather conditions that have led to very high temperatures and very heavy rainfalls. It is also partly due to the recent publication of the IPCC Climate Change 2021 report.

In an editorial, this newspaper wrote: “There is no time for delay and no room for excuses if we are to mitigate climate catastrophe. This is Code Red for Malta”.

The IPCC report produced predictions for a number of regions including the Mediterranean. If temperatures increase on average by around 1.5°C to 2°C, we are to expect higher temperatures, more temperature extremes, an increase in droughts, a decrease in rainfall, a rise in sea levels and a decrease in winds.

The impact of all this can only spell disaster for all nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea and hence the claim of this newspaper that this is “code red for Malta” is fully understandable and to which I fully subscribe and agree.

One of the headline figures in the report is that average global temperatures in 2011-2020 were 1.1°C higher when compared with 1850-1900. This may seem like an irrelevant figure if it were to occur on a single day or possibly even a month. However, when taken over a longer term, this increase starts to matter a great deal. With every additional fraction of a degree increase in global warming, weather changes become larger.

An Ipsos Mori survey for the Global Commons Alliance among persons living in the G20 nations (the international forum that brings together the world’s major economies) found that a majority (58 per cent) were very concerned or extremely concerned about the state of the planet. Seventy-three per cent believe humanity is pushing the planet towards a dangerous tipping point and support a shift of priorities away from economic profit.

Unless we transform our economic model, we will be doing long-term damage to our economy

This is, in fact, the key aspect of the issue. Governments are being told by their voters that the gross domestic product is no longer the metric to focus on, and that they should focus on the health and well-being of humans and nature.

The climate crisis is as much a problem for small nations as it is for large ones. It is a problem for rich nations as much as it is for poor ones. It is an economic  crisis as much as it is a social one and, therefore, requires us to look at it from the perspective of the common good.

This means a transformation of our economic model at every level – individuals, businesses, institutions and governments. Malta is no exception, and no one should try to turn it into an exception. It is “code red for Malta” as well. Unless we transform our economic model, we will be doing long-term damage to our economy.

A comment made by an analyst, who surely did not have Malta in mind, can be applied fully to our country.

Elizabeth Wathuti, a Kenyan environmentalist, wrote: “People in power seem to feel it is OK to fell old trees or destroy natural ecosystems for buildings or roads, or to dig up oil, so long as they then plant new trees. But this approach is not working, and the findings in this report (published by the Global Commons Alliance, and distinct from the IPCC report – my insertion for the sake of clarity) show that many people no longer support such economic idiocy.”

If we remove the reference to oil and focus on the felling of trees, it could be a statement taken ad verbatim from what Maltese environmental NGOs have been saying.

In Malta, we also need to look at the damage that has been done and continues to be done to our countryside, our air, our towns, our coastline and our sea. This onslaught by the few speculators, especially those in the construction sector, but also those who justify the millions they rake in and the damage they do by so-called benefits for the tourism sector, needs to stop now because we have got to the point of ‘code red’. Our economy cannot take short-term solutions any more.

This is a national issue to add to the ones we already have. The economic model of the last years must be transformed drastically. Delaying action will only hurt our children and grandchildren and future generations more. It is indeed “Code Red for Malta”.

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