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Earth Day 2021: How to restore our Earth

Earth Day 2021. (303773)
Earth Day 2021. Credit: NASA

It may seem like Mother Earth is angry with humankind. Aside from a striking virus that spread quickly and killed millions of people around the world, the weather has been more unpredictable than ever.

We have seen dropping temperatures due to a polar vortex in the state of Texas, as well as drought across California, and heavy rains in many parts across the nation.

According to the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the year 2021 started off being warmer and wetter than usual. Which was good news for the drought-ridden areas around California but is it normal?

It has been proven that the climate has been getting warmer since 1880 by an average rate of 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, however, there has also been an increase of 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit since 1981, which has doubled its rate by now, according to NOAA’s 2020 Annual Climate Report.

Nevertheless “global warming” and “climate change” are not the same, even though the terms are being used interchangeably. The term “climate change” refers to the measures of changes regarding climate over a long duration, and includes wind patterns, precipitation, as well as temperature. “Global warming” on the other hand refers to the increase of temperature globally due to the rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day last year, millions of people globally took part in activations inspired by the 2020’s theme of “Climate Action.” This year, Earth Day revolves around resilience, progress and enthusiasm, toward the theme of “Restore Our Earth,” which reflects on the current global situation regarding climate change. However, it also rejects the idea of adapting to the impacts of climate change—and rather find solutions and coming up with an action plan on how to restore ecosystems and forests, rid the oceans of plastic, restore wildlife habitats, improve farming, and rebuild the soil.

Earth Day 2021 has three parts this year and started with a global youth climate summit that took place on April 20. It was led by Earth Uprising, in cooperation with My Future My Voice, OneMillionOfUs, and hundreds of young activists around the world, such as Greta Thunberg, Licypriya Kangujam, and Alexandria Villaseñor, who participated in speeches, panels, and discussions.

On April 21, Earth Day preparations continued with Education International, which led the “Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit.” It covered various time zones and also featured known activists from every continent, with the focus on the crucial role educators face in battling climate change and why education regarding climate change is significant.

On April 22, which is Earth Day – is going to have its “Earth Day Live” digital event for the second time. The event will be filled with panel discussions, special performances, and workshops to focus on the topic “Restore Our Earth,” and will cover emerging green technologies, natural processes, as well as creative ideas about how to rehabilitate Mother Earth’s ecosystems.

President Joe Biden made it one of his first responsibilities after his inauguration to sign an executive order for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement that former President Trump decided to exit in 2017. The U.S. officially withdrew in 2020.

On March 26, the Biden Administration announced that it will host a virtual Leaders Summit from April 22 to 23 – which will be streaming live – aligned with the “Earth Day Live’’ digital event. This summit will highlight the urgency for serious climate action. It will be a key component on its journey to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, this November. The goal of both – the Leader Summit and COP26 is to globally maintain the planet’s temperature at 1.5 degrees, which scientists have emphasized to be crucial to limit the significant impact of climate change. If the planet reaches the 2 degrees line it will be critical for all ecosystems — over 1.7 billion people will experience more extreme heat waves once every five years; coral reefs could decrease up to 99 percent; fishing could decline by another 1.5 million tons; sea levels could rise another four inches, which means coasts and cities can be wiped out.

In general, more than a hundred million people can end up in poverty due to climate-related changes.

Aside from the main goal of combating climate change, the Leader Summit will also underline how solid climate actions can provide high-paying jobs, help at-risk countries adapt to the impact of climate change, as well as create advanced technologies.

Biden also encouraged the 40 invited world leaders to use the summit as a chance to execute a blueprint regarding climate action in their countries. The U.S. will announce a promising 2030 emissions target as part of the new Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement.

Restoring Mother Earth will also bring hope, especially in the age of COVID-19. The aftermath of the pandemic has shown that there is a connection between global health and global environmental degradation.

The way humanity is treating the planet with water and air pollution, deforestation, wildlife trade, climate change, human diets and other factors, plays a great role in how the natural systems are slowly decaying, resulting in lethal viruses such as the ongoing pandemic.

“While the exact origin and cause of the coronavirus continue to be debated,” President of Earth Day Network Kathleen Rogers said, “scientists are sounding the alarm that unless we take better care of the planet, we risk more and even deadlier viruses ravaging our communities.”

Sir David King, a retired professor in Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge and the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the U.K. Government and Head of the Government Office, raised the urgency for the government to act on climate change during his time in office.

“The current pandemic has shut down the economies of the world and is causing large numbers of deaths. Climate change is an existential threat to our global civilization. Neither of these two challenges recognizes national borders,” King said. “And both are challenges where the scientific community has for many decades provided detailed forewarning. It is time to switch from the cold war paradigm, which is a hangover from the 20th century based on national military and wealth dominance. Neither provides any defense against these challenges. The alternative is focused on the well-being of all people and the restoration of our ecosystems.”