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Maverick Citizen Op-ed

The climate crisis in 2020: why you should take a stand now

JUNIPER HILLS, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 18: A home burns as the sun sets behind smoke and flames during the Bobcat Fire on September 18, 2020 in Juniper Hills, California. Numerous homes were destroyed in the area a day after mandatory evacuations there as the Bobcat Fire has now scorched more than 60,000 acres. California's national forests remain closed due to wildfires which have burned a record 3.4 million acres this year. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

 “The climate crisis is an existential risk and the fundamental challenge of our time.” – US senator and 2020 vice presidential candidate, Kamala Harris

I wrote an article for Daily Maverick in 2019 in response to the global climate crisis. It has now been a year since that article and so much has changed.

A global pandemic unseen in scale and impact has gripped most of the world and had devastating effects on every aspect of life – from jobs and hunger, to the vulnerability of healthcare systems. But in its wake, Covid-19 has raised a host of issues.

For a start, it temporarily forced the climate crisis into the background. However, that particular crisis is pushing itself to the fore again, whether we like it or not. 

One only has to watch the news coming out of almost any country around the world to see that the climate crisis has not taken a break. Devastating fires in California, Congo and the Amazon are all reminders that the pandemic cannot hide the growing devastation and suffering taking place across the globe.

Numerous climate models are beginning to show that the earth is warming faster than previously predicted, and that violent weather storms are becoming more prevalent and harsher. The predictions are that the global South, especially regions like southern Africa, will suffer increasingly severe effects such as longer droughts and more devastating floods.

This will affect the food value chain, the spread of diseases and lead to mass urban migration. The pandemic has highlighted, once again, how ill-prepared we are in South Africa to cope with events of this nature.

Urgent action must be taken on a global scale to stem the advance of the climate crisis. Our own government is fiddling while the planet burns. There has been no serious action taken by those in power.

A colloquium here and a recycling workshop there will not cut it.

Our pro-nuclear minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe, continues to stymy the procurement of renewable energy. In a country like South Africa, with high unemployment rates and a spiralling economy, it is absolutely criminal not to promote the potential of rapid job creation and youth employment opportunities through supporting and accelerating the renewable energy sector.

The “just transition” offers the potential to reskill existing workers and create new jobs in this field. There is empirical data to support the job creation potential inherent in renewable energy, and South Africa should not be left behind.

In response to the existential risk of the climate emergency, South Africa needs to step up its game. A few activists, however well-intended, will not move us forward. There needs to be national action that society can rally around. The Climate Justice Charter, which was initiated by the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign (SAFSC) and COPAC with input from multiple grassroots formations, is a step in the right direction.

Parliament must adopt the Climate Justice Charter for South Africa. The charter offers a policy framework that would allow the government to end hunger, the water crisis, pollution and climate harm.

The document is a signpost emerging from years of campaigning and resistance, prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable. Not only does it outline goals and principles rooted in equality and justice, but also presents systemic alternatives from below – alternatives to current systems which perpetuate inequality and are exacerbating climate change.

The alternatives below will not only help us achieve equality, but also help us in the long run in the face of the climate emergency.

That is why we make make the following call to action:

  1. Support this Friday’s Global Day of Climate Action. There will be various actions across the country by organisations like 350.org and Extinction Rebellion.
  2.   Stand with SAFSC, COPAC and sister organisations around the country on 16 October for a national day of action. 
  3.   Ask the government and the media to #TelltheTruth about the climate crisis.
  4.   Join civil society organisations and campaigns like the African Climate Reality Project, Greenpeace and Earthlife Africa.

As Kamala Harris has said, “Now is not the time to throw up our hands in despair. Progress can be slow, it can be painful, but now more than ever it is time to roll up our sleeves, stand up for the country we love and get to work.” DM/MC

“Maverick Citizen supports the Global Climate Action and citizen action to mitigate the climate crisis. Where will you be on 25 September 2020? What will you tell your children and grandchildren you did to save the planet? The science is beyond question. Read what scientists say about how the climate crisis is affecting South Africa here.  There are no ifs and or buts about this.”– Mark Heywood

Sunny Morgan is a climate activist and founder of Enerlogy Solar.

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  • This is a very, very, good article. If only the world will listen. How can humanity ever fight this if the President of the most powerful country in the world, the United States, believe that climate change is a hoax. Just as he lied about the Coronavirus. And Trump is supported by half the population, with millions (even billions), more fanatical supporters from other countries, including other presidents. God knows how the world will fight global warming if Trump is re-elected for another 4 years come November

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