Climate Change

Climate Change: The Facts

Climate change is the greatest threat to life on earth. It has always be seen as something which will happen in the future. However, it is happening now. The baseline climate of our planet is changing, although we may not all experience it day to day. Climate change will cause increased temperatures, floods, wildfires, rising sea levels, species extinction, the consequences are vast and many are unknown. It has been at least 30 years since climate change was first spoken about, yet the action to be taken has not been prioritised.

We still have time to pull the emergency break, but not for long

Greta Thunberg, 16 year old climate activist

What happens in the next 12 years is crucial for all our futures. If we do not tackle this now, it could lead to the collapse of the natural world which we rely on. This is an issue which should be at the forefront of all policy makers decisions.

The programme was such an opportunity to spread awareness of climate change; BBC 1, 9pm prime time – narrated by David Attenborough, the man who everyone trusts. I hope it captured the attention of those who were unaware of the seriousness of the situation. David Attenborough presented the facts in a much harder and sterner tone than his other documentaries, a sign his patience is wearing thin? There was no lovely scenic shots of wildlife, this programme had one purpose, to educate. It is up to us all to do something, this was the undertone.

These are my key takeaways.

  • CO2 levels were 280ppm in pre-industrial times, now they are 400ppm.
  • Temperature rising: World is now 1 degree hotter than pre-industrial times, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the last 22 years. The 2018 heatwaves were 30x more likely to focus as a result of climate change).
  • Species extinction: As the earth climates become more inhabitable, we are pushing species off the planet. 8% species are currently at threat of extinction solely because of climate change. This will destroy the ecological network of our planet with unknown consequences.
  • Melting sea ice: Compares to 25 years ago, the Arctic is losing 5x more ice today, the Antarctic is losing 3 x.
  • Rising sea levels: As a result of melting ice and the thermal expansion of the ocean as it warms sea levels rise. They have been stable for several thousand years, however in the last 100 years they have risen by 20cm. Louisiana in America, is losing the size of a football field every 45 minutes due to sea level rise!
  • 90% of the increased heat trapped in our atmosphere as a result of increased CO2 is stored within our oceans, this could further increase temperatures in the future.
  • Loss of ecosystems: Within the last 3 years, rising sea temperatures have bleached a third of the worlds corals. This is such a huge loss to our planet.
  • Deforestation: Forests are the “lungs of our planet” they have stored 1/3rd all our CO2 emissions to date. However, deforestation for oil, cattle ranches etc release carbon back into the atmosphere. 1/3rd CO2 emissions have been caused by deforestation

We are on track for a warming of 1.5 degrees by 2040/50 if we carry on along our current trend. This is only in a few decades! Once we hit 2 degrees it is unknown what the consequences could be. The projection is that by the end of the century our planet could have warmed between 3-6 degrees. This will bring with it unknown consequences, passing tipping points with no chance of return. The forests could spiral, deforesting themselves into savanna, Greenland and the Arctic could experience irreversible meltdown and the methane released from permafrost will cause unknown warming and consequences (given that methane is 23 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2).

We are a fossil based economy, an energy generation. As we continue to pump out CO2, the temperature will continue to rise and the threats we face will likewise. The sad fact is those who have contributed little to CO2 levels in the atmosphere are those who will feel the consequences most severely. However, the effect of climate change will spread to all on Earth. Climate change was first publicised 30 years ago, however the science was complex and the seed of doubt planted by oil companies slowed down progress. I was shocked when I first heard that the oil and gas companies ran communication campaigns to promote the uncertainty of climate change, the benefits of a warming planet and how it would be easier to adapt to the consequences. To me, this seems criminal. The cost of acting and changing now, will be far dwarfed by the cost of adapting to the consequences later.

However small steps we can do…

  • Renewable energy is getting cheaper, solar energy in particular (in many countries it is one of the cheapest forms)
  • The UK is preparing to build the largest offshore wind farm where 1 revolution of a turbine’s blades will power a house for a day (if we can harness and store this energy!)
  • Planting trees
  • Become more considerate in what we buy, buy less but better quality. Everything has a carbon footprint (fashion particularly is key for this, hard I know!)
  • Food waste (as i mentioned in my previous post)
  • Reduce meat and dairy (plant based diet is the best). Agricultural production is a huge contributor of greenhouse gases, especially methane.

Taking these small steps to tackle things with alternatives currently available, will allow time to think of solutions for those we don’t e.g. flying. (Although the programme showed current research into battery powered planes!). However, change at policy level will be key to tackling this issue. The government needs to step in and hopefully the work of Extinction Rebellion will prompt this!

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