So much aggression across the world is making it increasingly difficult to focus even here in peaceful Portugal on the biggest threat of all to the future of humanity: climate change.
The arguing over Ukraine, now getting close to all-out war, atrocities in Afghanistan, mass killings in African nations, Islamic terrorism, child abuse within the Catholic Church, cyber-attacks from China … this plus the worldwide economic crisis and the COVID pandemic have been diverting attention from the symptoms we are already experiencing of a potential climatic calamity.
Overcoming the issues discussed but left unresolved by last November’s COP26 conference in Glasgow remains mankind’s greatest and most urgent challenge. It needs intelligent cooperation not absurd confrontation.
Alarming new studies show that droughts and sea level rise due to climate change are threatening life in the United States more than ever before, just as they are in Portugal. Even more alarming is the fact that, internationally, not nearly enough is being done about it.
“Climate change-induced extreme winter drought devastates crops in Spain and Portugal” just about made it into the international news headlines last week. “This year, amid record low levels, or no rainfall at all, farmers in both Portugal and Spain, who are growing produce for all of Europe, are worried that their crops for this season will be ruined,” reported Euronews.
Portugal has had little rain since last October. Since the end of January, 45% of the country has been experiencing ‘severe’ or ‘extreme’ drought. Rainfall from the beginning of October to the end of January was less than half the annual average for that four-month period.
Water levels in the country’s reservoirs are dropping significantly and there are no reassuring forecasts for heavy rains in the months ahead.
Every bit as worrying as growing sufficient agricultural products for human consumption and grass for livestock is providing domestic supplies of fresh water in urban areas. Sufficient winter precipitation prior to the normal dry summer is crucial, but Portugal is not getting it.
The new studies in the US have reported not only on mega-droughts in California and the rest of the southwest, but on sea level rise all along America’s vast coastline. We know all about sea level rise along Portugal’s west and south coasts. They are threatening to flood and perhaps submerge many communities causing social and financial ruin, not least to tourism.
Longer and hotter heat waves prompting more widespread wildfires are among Portugal’s other major concerns in connection with climate change, which is why mandatory spring land clearing is already underway throughout the country from north to south.
Yes, we know about the ever-present danger of desertification as Portugal is one of Europe’s most vulnerable countries to climate change because of its geographical location. This is all so distant from the minds of egomanias such as global warming denier Donald Trump and Ukraine-obsessed Vladimir Putin, but global leaders must focus much more on supporting, not destroying, the future of life on planet Earth.
By LEN PORT
Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: algarvenewswatch.blogspot.pt