As we celebrate the 51st anniversary of Earth Day today, we must not overlook the significance of this year’s theme, “Restore Our Earth.”
The message comes at a time when the world is grieving the loss of over three million people to a global pandemic that continues to claim lives. By January of 2021, in the United States alone, someone was dying from COVID-19 every 26 seconds.
A growing collection of evidence shows that climate change played a role in the emergence of the virus that causes COVID-19. Outbreaks of disease will continue to become much more common and much more dangerous as a direct result of climate change.
Human activities are making unnatural changes to the Earth’s climate system. According to NOAA, carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have been in 3 million years. This heat-trapping gas is dramatically changing the climate, and those changes ultimately threaten the survival of every living thing.
At the most recent United Nations climate conference, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the urgency of preventing “irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.”
“We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change,” said Guterres. “Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late.”
“For many, people, regions – even countries – this is already a matter of life and death… Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough.”
Guterres noted that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years.
“Climate change is the single most important issue we face,” said Guterres. “It affects all our plans for sustainable development and a safe, secure and prosperous world.”
Today, President Joe Biden will host a special Earth Day climate meeting, the Leaders Summit on Climate. Officials from around the world will discuss the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help vulnerable countries cope with inevitable climate impacts.
Day one of the Leader’s Summit will begin live streaming at 8:00 a.m. EDT, and is available here.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer