Act now to save the planet


Pedestrians cool off with their feet in the water of the Trafalgar Square fountain, in central London, on July 13, 2022, during a heatwave. 

Photo credit: Justin Tallis | AFP

Due to extreme weather conditions, political leaders are now disaster commentators. Climate change is an “existential threat”, as US President Joe Biden stated in July”, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the earth is now in “the age of boiling”, not “warming”.

The record rainfall in Australia, heat waves in India and Pakistan and the collapse of a glacier in the Alps, 2022 helped to raise awareness across the planet. But 2023 seems to be the year of confirmation. In Death Valley, California, the temperature rose to 57°C.

In China, it reached 53°C, and in Tunisia and Sardinia 48°C. Climatologists claim December 2023 will be the hottest month on record. In the summer of 2022, nearly 72,000 people died in Europe as a result of heat. How many will there by the end of this year?

In 2015, the Paris Agreement set the goal of limiting the rise in temperatures to below 2°C and, if possible, to 1.5°C by the end of the century. Eight years on, the gap is widening between awareness of the consequences of the climate crisis on food production, national economies, water supplies, survival of natural world, and the response to it: The voluntary commitments made by countries put the planet on a warming trajectory of 2.5°C by the end of the century, if they are kept at all, or even 2.8°C if current policies continue.

One cannot underrate the challenge facing governments while enforcing the environmental transition.  In recent years, voluntary plans have been launched, notably in United States and the European Union to reduce greenhouse emissions, which are the main cause of climate change. There is every reason to speed up the process, but nothing to guarantee it. When all is said and done, no one will be able to say they didn’t know what was to come.

Mr Onyango is an advocate of the High Court.                  [email protected]