CLIMATE CHANGE AND PRIORITIES…HOW IMPORTANT IS BREATHING IN COMPARISON TO MONEY?
The Arctic region is melting at an ever increasingly velocious rate. In the last decade temperatures in the Arctic have increased by 1C. Areas such as Northern Siberia and the Canadian Arctic are now warming at a three times quicker rate than the rest of the world. If nothing is done to halt the vast amount of gas emissions it is estimated that by the middle of the century the northern areas of the world will see a rise in temperatures of 4C. A recent Nature Climate Change study has predicted that by 2035 summer sea ice that floats on the surface off the Arctic Ocean could disappear which is alarming scientists as previously this was not expected to occur until 2050 at the earliest. At outposts in the Canandian Arctic, permafrost is thawing 70 years sooner than was predicted At the end of July, 40% of Canada’s last fully intact ice shelf ceased to exist when the 4000 year old Milne Ice Shelf located on the north -western edge of Ellesmere Island broke off into the sea.
OUT OF CONTROL INFERNOS ARE NOW COMMONPLACE
Global Climate change is manifesting into raging wildfires with temperatures annually soaring overall and hitting 38C in the town of Verkhoyansk in July which is considered one of the coldest regions on the planet. The latest huge out of control fires experienced in Australia of which the devastation killed an estimated 1 billion animals, California (hundreds of animals were found injured or charred to death) and the Amazon (estimated 2.3 million animals perished) are not the only areas which are burning up in massive areas. In recent summers out of control blazes have swept across Alaska, the tundra of Sweden and Russia destroying valuable native vegetation. This domino effect of rapid temperature change leads to disastrous effects for all animals that depend on the regions for their survival. Millions of caribou and reindeer live off the mosses, stubbly grasses and lichens in the area. Their plight is intensified by the increasing rain-on-snow events which are also accelerating in frequency that effectively locks the ungulates food in ice causing them to starve to death. This has led to massive losses of the population of reindeer and caribou whose global numbers have declined by 56% in the last 20 years. Last summer the Arctic fires were so profound that they amassed an area of smoke larger than the European Union landmass. In June, 3-4 million acres of Siberian forest were burning in areas that were unreachable to firefighters. Pantanal, in Brazil undoubtedly one of the most biodiverse places on earth, lost approximately a quarter of its wetlands this year in unrelenting, wild and unprecedented bushfires. The wetland, which stretches over parts of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia stores innumerable amounts of carbon which helps to stabilize the climate. Forest fires are natural events, however the increase in global temperatures have led to excessive evaporation. These out of control fire phenomenon events occur in tandem with extended droughts which lead to an extremely dry landscape developing over multiple years and resulting in the frequency and intensity of fires. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate change increases the prospect of droughts, fires, storms and other weather anomalies. What we used to label as ‘natural disaster events’ that would once occur every 100 years are suddenly occurring every ten years with each year narrowing the time gap on what is now more and more referred to as climate change disasters.
CONSEQUENCES OF THIS ACCELERATED PROCESS
Global climate change has long term serious side effects that will affect everyone’s lives to different degrees depending on where they live. Developing countries and those with widespread poverty will be poorly equipped to prevent and deal with the aftermath of increasing environmental upheaval. However wealthy countries such as Germany that play an active role in reducing emissions and have strong environmental policies are amongst the top three countries along with Japan and the Philippines suffering the most from extreme weather fluctuations. In 2018 Japan was hit with the triple whammy of floods and mudslides induced from torrential rain which resulted in the deaths of over 200 people. As well as the loss of life over 5000 houses were damaged and 2.3 million people had to be evacuated. The financial deficit of this extreme weather event resulted in over 6 billion worth of damages. Shortly after this occurred an extreme heatwave with a new recorded high of 41.1 degrees in the central city of Kumagaya resulted in the hospitalisation of more than 70,000 with 139 people dying. Then in September of 2018 the strongest Typhoon to ever hit Japan in 25 years made up the catastrophic trifecta inflicting over 11 billion worth of damages. Germany’s strong stance on protecting the environment did not make it immune to a severe heat wave it endured between April and July of 2018 which resulted in the average temperature being 2.9 degrees higher than before industrialization when records began (approx.1870) recording 16.6 degrees celsius. The heatwave resulted in 1,246 deaths and Germany also experienced high crop losses. This is an ever increasing trend as rainfall has fallen all over the country and the winters have become consistently milder. Air conditioning never considered to be necessary in Germany’s mild summer climate is now being widely used to combat the high temperatures that the country now endures during many months of the year. The Philippines attributed 455 deaths in the 2018 period as a result of culpable weather with total damages inflicted by the Typhoon Mangkhut which manifested into landslides and excessive rainfall as well as the overall destruction it unleashed topping 4.5 billion. On top of the high number of deaths, catastrophic climate change disasters also unleash numerous negative implications in regards to general health matters. Higher temperatures can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke and hyperthermia that can also lead to massive loss of life as was experienced in the 2003 European heat wave that was responsible for the deaths of approximately 70,000 people. Extreme temperature shifts can also exacerbate pre existing illnesses such as cardiovascular, hypertension, respiratory, cerebrovascular and kidney conditions. Vector-borne diseases which are carried by certain animals including mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and rodents can become rampant when temperatures climb.
HOMELESSNESS INDUCED BY CLIMATE CHANGES EFFECTS ON RISING SEA LEVELS
Rising seas if not abated by prompt climate change action will displace tens of millions of people. The sea level is currently at its highest level in 2,800 years. It is alarming to note that if Greenland ice sheets melt in their entirety the height of global seas would increase by 20 feet and that added to the potential thawing of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet would add another 10 feet of sea level to the equation. A huge proportion of the world’s population live near the coast, with approximately 145 million people worldwide living three feet or less above sea level. If the sea levels were to rise by 20 feet most of Florida in the United States and a third of New York City would be submerged in salt water. 800 million people live less than 30 feet from present sea levels so if the prediction of a 30 feet rise in sea levels due to the melting of the world’s main ice sheets was realized the amount of homeless refugees from climate change would have devastating effects. Rising seas also jeopardizes drinking water and the treatment of human waste. Waterborne diseases rising from storm water disposal would exponentially increase and can also increase food contamination causing salmonella and noroviruses. Displacement of a huge amount of the world’s population would bring major humanitarian issues and water shortages could result in dire consequences for millions of people. With seasons changing and the challenges of producing food becoming more onerus, shortages of food will also become more prevalent as changes in precipitation patterns coupled with reductions in water availability may all result in reduced agricultural productivity.
CONTINUING AND INCREASING ERRATIC AND DEADLY WEATHER
As climate change accelerates, devastating weather events such as droughts, hurricanes, persistent bushfires and heat waves will only intensify and occur ever more frequently. The Paris Accord called for holding warming below 2.0 (degrees Celsius) while aiming to limit it to 1.5C. Over 90 scientists from over 40 countries painstakingly reviewed 6000 studies to prepare the IPCC report and its recommendations in response to the 2015 Paris climate accord request. The report concluded that if temperatures increased to 1.5C that of the 105 species taken into account in the study that six percent of insects, four percent of vertebrates and eight percent of plants would lose half of their climatically- determined geographic range. A rise of 2C would triple these percentages. A 1.5C increase would also accumulate to a loss of 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs, substantially increasing to a 99 percent loss when considering a 2C rise. The IPCC gravely came to the conclusion that all life on planet earth is under an ever increasing existential threat due to the accelerating rate of climate change that is induced by human activities attached to consumerism.
HOW MUCH DO POLITICAL CHOICES AFFECT CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION?
To avoid the serious consequences of climate change the IPCC report stated that greenhouse pollution must be reduced from 2010 levels by 2030 by 45 percent and 100 percent reduced by 2050. In order to achieve this goal the use of Coal which currently accounts for 40 percent of electrical production, would need to be reduced to nearly one percent of productivity. It would also be necessary for renewable energy sources that currently supply 20 percent of electrical production to triple. An enormous world wide effort to completely transform the world’s economy is the only way the report sees to divert a disaster of unscalable devastation. The United States (US) has come under fire for its lax efforts to limit greenhouse pollutions that have greatly hindered the goals of the Paris Accord and the recommendations from its scientific panel. The climate change matter has become politically charged with Michael Mann, a professor at Penn State University who is regarded as one of the most renowned climate scientists in the world declaring that: ‘A second Trump term is game over for the climate… really.’ Mann has denied his beliefs are partisan but confirms it is a political statement. ‘It’s a political statement because it speaks to the need to enact policies to deal with climate change.’ he said. United States President Donald Trump did announce on June 1st, 2017 that the U.S would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and began to renegotiate the agreement ‘on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.’ Trump said his reasons for withdrawing from the agreement were that: ‘The Paris accord will undermine (the U.S) economy and put (the U.S.) at a permanent disadvantege’ The withdrawal was also confirmed to coincide with his America First policy. Mann says that the world is already far behind lowering the heat trapping emissions roughly in half by 2030. Mann says the Trump administration has prevented the world’s largest economy from implementing ‘the dramatic reductions that were necessary to keep us on that path’ (of halving emissions by 2030) Mann believes that if Trump is reelected the window to halt climate change will shut forever. ‘Four more years of relative inaction of flat emissions means that four years from now that number might be closer to 15% (emissions reductions) a year.. And that may be although not physically impossible, societally impossible.’ Mann said. He also concludes that because earlier emission reduction targets have not been met the bar each year gets higher bringing with it even greater levels of reduction needed to achieve the same result that he does not regard as plausable to attain.
DESTRUCTION OF OUR ONLY HOME
Studies show that the unrelenting destruction of the earth through rapidly increasing climate change will not only unleash dire consequences for the human race, it can also decimate the animal population and destroy native fauna, flora and reefs. Nothing on the planet will be immune to its effects. Nature enables us to breathe. Our continued oblivious destruction of the things we require to exist has gone on for too long. There is only a small space of time to try and halt the effect of what industrialisation, consumerism and greed has inflicted on our planet and the other species that inhabit it. The time it seems to act is now. Our indulgent procrastination on this urgent matter is rapidly running out. The clock is ticking. The question is if this call to action will be followed or ignored. The fate of the planet and of our own existence lies in our hands.