By Adeze Ojukwu
Another deadly pandemic is imminent. In fact it looms large. It is scary. It is dreadful. The world is rattled. Environmentalists, researchers, doctors and policy makers are agitated. Questions about the when, why, how of the omnious outbreak and other flustering posers are mounting at various high-level interventionist global conferences. Indeed this verdict remains a reality, that cannot be easily waved away.
Director General of World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Adhanom Ghebreyesus handed down this grievous news, at the just-ended 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. He said, “the threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains, and the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains.”
According to him, although COVID-19 may no longer be a global public health emergency, countries must still strengthen response to the disease and prepare for future pandemics and other threats.
“In the face of overlapping and converging crises, pandemics are far from the only threat we face,” he added, underscoring the need for effective global mechanisms that address and respond to emergencies of all kinds.
“When the next pandemic comes knocking, and it will, we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively, and equitably,” he advised.
He called for “urgent and constructive negotiations on the new global pandemic accord and the International Health Regulations (IHR), the treaty that governs preparedness and response to health emergencies, so the world will never again have to face the devastation of a pandemic like COVID-19.”
Underscoring this point, Head of WHO Emergencies Program, Dr. Mike Ryan said, “the next pandemic may be more severe. We need to get our act together,” because we live on a fragile planet, and in an increasingly complex society.” Sadly, climate change and its adverse impact have worsened the earth’s vulnerabilities, due to the aggressive encroachment of the animal and plant kingdoms. Over the years, environments have churned out scientific findings about the cumulative impact of these threats both to man and the planet.
Many scientists identified fossil fuel burning, as a major factor that increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels on the atmosphere, seriously threatening both man and other inhabitants in the ecosystem.
Several UN reports show that “impacts of rising temperatures are visible today from the poles to the equator, with each region struggling with its own set of symptoms: droughts, extreme storms, floods and swinging temperatures.”
UN estimates that “the world has, so far, experienced a global temperature increase of 1.1˚C, while the expected temperature rise, if we continue polluting as usual is 3˚C by 2100. Indeed the world is increasingly becoming aware and demanding action from decision makers to address this human-caused emergency. Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions.”
“As greenhouse gas emissions blanket the earth, they trap the sun’s heat. This leads to global warming and climate change. The world is now warming faster than at any point in recorded history. Warmer temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and disrupting the usual balance of nature. This poses many risks to human beings and all other forms of life on earth.”
This menace has caused devastating climatic emergencies. This is, essentially, a direct consequence of carbon-heavy land-use and agriculture, transport, buildings and industrial processes and polluting energy sources.
Unfortunately this vicious cycle is escalating. Without profound changes, particularly, a drastic cut to carbon footprint, experts report that there is little hope to protect the planet from the worst effects of a warmer world.
These risks, threaten not just the world’s eight billion people but the ecosphere. For many, this is comparable to the mythological Sword of Damocles. The UN report on the gory details is dreadful.
“Infectious diseases cause over one billion human infections per year, with millions of deaths each year globally. Approximately two thirds of known human infectious diseases are shared with animals, and the majority of recently emerging diseases are associated with wildlife. Human activities are disturbing both the structure and functions of ecosystems and altering native biodiversity. Such disturbances reduce the abundance of some organisms, cause population growth in others, modify the interactions among organisms, and alter the interactions between organisms and their physical and chemical environments.
“Patterns of infectious diseases are sensitive to these disturbances. Major processes affecting infectious disease reservoirs and transmission include, deforestation; land-use change; water management, for example, through dam construction, irrigation, uncontrolled urbanization or urban sprawl; resistance to pesticide chemicals used to control certain disease vectors; climate variability and change; migration and international travel and trade; and the accidental or intentional human introduction of pathogens.”
Evidentially, the unbridled environmental onslaught, is massively accelerating this frightening actuality. The overarching quest for technological advancement and its planetary destructive consequences, require serious regulations and monitoring. Without appropriate measures to checkmate these ruinous activities, under the guise of advancing human progress, the entire ecosystem, including man, will be doomed. Indeed, the resurgence of zoonotic diseases, otherwise called zoonoses, may not end soon. This vexatious news remains worrisome. Millions of people across the world are rattled. They have every reason to be so agitated. Many communities and businesses are yet to recover from COVID, after its massive brutalization of lives and livelihoods.
The re-surfacing of a new harbinger of death calls for urgent interventions. This is the time for global and national leaders, as well as the world’s teeming consortium of corporate giants to exhibit genuine commitment to the noble objective to save man and the planet.
Developing countries, such as Nigeria must shed off their current apathy to this horrendous challenges and embrace the new initiative for green investments. The authorities should increase budgetary allocations to environmental sustainability projects, as well as other critical sectors as agriculture, economy, education, technology and research.
Undoubtedly, the effective enunciation and implementation of these lofty interventions will contribute, remarkably, towards curbing the imminent plague of global warming.
•Ojukwu, a journalist, author and Fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, a US sponsored Fulbright programme, is an advocate for justice, equity and good governance. Kindly send feedback to [email protected]