Life in Malta will become "very unpleasant" if temperatures continue to rise, with people forced to remain indoors because of the searing heat, according to Climate Action Ambassador Prof. Simone Borg.
Sectors from agriculture to tourism will be upended by desertification, and our natural habitat, wildlife and trees, will die out, Borg explained.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a landmark report earlier on Monday raised alarm bells that the 1.5˚C temperature increase limit of the Paris Agreement would likely be breached around 2030 – a decade earlier than it itself projected just three years ago.
It also painted a picture of five different future scenarios based on by how much the world manages to reduce carbon emissions. The most optimistic saw global temperatures overshooting the 1.5˚C target but dropping back to 1.4˚C by 2100.
In the report’s worst case scenario, the world could be around 3.3˚C hotter than now by the end of the century.
Looking at the significance of the report locally, Borg explained how people’s wellbeing in Malta would be severely compromised if temperatures started going up to 45˚C. The highest ever recovered temperature in Malta was just under 44˚C for one day in August 1999.
“If the international community doesn’t rise to the occasion and embark on an ambitious plan to phase out fossil fuels, at the latest by 2050, then life in Malta by the end of the century will become very unpleasant,” she said.
“In countries where you have high temperatures of 45˚C - 50˚C people don’t go outdoors, they live indoors, and the Maltese are definitely not used to living indoors, so it will be a complete change in lifestyle,” she explained.
"If the climate continues on the current route, Malta will become a desert and maintaining agricultural activity will become very difficult and costly," she explained.
The economy will also be put under strain to generate more energy for cooling, she added, pointing that even if the island was completely dependent on renewable energy by then, the cost of maintaining the correct temperature indoors will skyrocket.
And important sectors like tourism are also likely to be upended by the shift in climate, she said.
“Tourists may stop wanting to come here during the summer months, and may opt for the cooler months, which may cause an upheaval in the way we organise our tourist agenda.”
Borg also underlined the country's biodiversity and endemic species, which are fragile and already under threat, will die out, and marine life would also be affected as warming seas increased acidity levels, unless swift action was taken.
Change for the better could only happen if different sectors of society – from civil society groups to businesses – joined up, with the population playing an extremely important role, she said.
“The last thing we want is the government proposing change and people objecting to these changes because they are uncomfortable or inconvenient,” she pointed out.
“We owe it to our children and grandchildren to make a change and to support governments that want to make a change,” she said.
Former Climate Change Ambassador, Michael Zammit Cutajar said the report issued on Monday was a positive development.
In comparison to past reports, this one was more urgent, forceful, and focused, but the issue now was "what are we going to do about it, who is going to do it, and when."
"The answers to these questions may come in Glasgow, we'll just have to wait to see," he said, with reference to the forthcoming Climate summit meeting.
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