We are on the verge of a climate catastrophe, but all is not lost. It is now more important than ever that we take action rather than giving up and losing hope.
It serves no purpose to make the medication seem sweet. The future is bleak as climate breakdown brought on by global warming brought on by our carbon-polluting activities worsens year after year. You can observe what’s happening to our planet without listening to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and climate scientists’ increasingly ominous predictions; all you have to do is check your news feeds or turn on your TV.
Not only is our environment changing, but it is also breaking down. It is now hard to deny the explosion of extreme weather that has occurred over the past five years, from biblical floods in Pakistan to unheard-of wildfires in the US and Canada to record-breaking temperatures almost everywhere. The UK has so far been spared the worst, but the record-breaking summer temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius and the wildfire that tore through the village of Wennington on the outskirts of the city offer a modest preview of what is to come.
It’s entirely likely that in the 4.5 billion years of Earth’s existence, nothing like what we are going through has ever happened before. Yes, there have been numerous times when the climate has altered. And due to natural variance brought on by numerous reasons, it has been hotter than it is presently. But neither the average temperature of our planet nor the concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, have ever risen as quickly. Since the industrial revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 50% due to human activity’s pumping out of the gas and the destruction of forests and other natural “sinks” that absorb carbon. This in turn has caused the ocean to heat up very quickly.
Our planet’s temperature has increased by just under 1.3C on average during the past five years compared to pre-industrial times. The rate of growth is so great that 1.5C could be attained in the upcoming years and is nearly guaranteed to happen by 2030. This number is frequently used as a benchmark for the ‘guardrail’ of hazardous climate change, beyond which climatic breakdown becomes universal, affecting every region of the world and permeating every element of our life.
Global carbon dioxide emissions would need to decrease by 50% by 2030, or a little over 80 months, in order to have any hope of avoiding this. The harsh reality is that 1.5C is dead in the water, despite the fact that there is still a lot of discussion about how important it is to keep it “alive”. We must face the reality that serious climate change is inevitable since it is currently practically impossible for us to stay on this side of the guardrail. Many nations are aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, or net-zero emissions, but by then it’s possible that global temperatures may have increased by 2C.
A world where rapid sea level rise will swamp large stretches of coastline, drought and famine stalk the land, migration reaches biblical levels, and society and the economy start to fray at the edges is what we are actually headed for if we don’t take action to reduce emissions. The single most scary prediction is that by the middle of the century, which is only 27 years away, our planet would require 50% more food to feed more mouths, while crop yields may have decreased by as much as 30%. If realized, this would result in a typical half of the amount of food available per person. Really, it’s not worth thinking about. To fuel anger, which in turn motivates action, we must reflect on it.
So, what’s the next step? There is no doubt that our condition is severe, and we and our children currently have no choice but to adjust to a world that our grandparents would hardly recognize. But it’s crucial to realize that there is still hope and that taking action is now more important than ever. Every tonne of carbon we can prevent from being emitted and every 0.1C increase in the world’s average temperature we can stop matters. Our main goal right now must be preventing risky from becoming catastrophic for the benefit of generations who will come after us.
We must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by 2030 if we are to have any chance of a future worth living. Government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry totaled $1 trillion in 2022; this must end immediately. Banks must stop funding new projects at the same time that insurance companies must stop covering fossil fuel infrastructure. This would significantly increase the cost of new fossil fuel reserves’ exploration and exploitation. The cherry on top would be to impose a carbon charge at the wellhead and mine entrance. A staggering 3.5 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide would be released into the sky if all fossil fuel reserves were burned, which is more than has been released into the environment since the industrial revolution. This would result in a double-digit increase in the average global temperature and the most likely end of human civilization. It cannot be let to occur.
There needs to be a push to remove carbon from the atmosphere at the same time that the fossil fuel industry is brought under control. While there are some artificial ways to do this that are being promoted, it would be preferable to use natural methods like stopping deforestation, massive tree planting campaigns, and the restoration of habitats like wetlands and peatlands, which are excellent carbon-sinks. The amount of carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere might be reduced by about one-third by planting 1.2 trillion trees on a surface area equivalent to China and the United States combined, or little over 10% of our planet’s land surface.
Governments around the world are the largest obstacles to adequately addressing the climate emergency because they fail to comprehend how catastrophic a climatic breakdown will be. The UK government is entirely off course when it comes to fulfilling future carbon targets and supporting and encouraging new oil, gas, and coal projects at a time when doing so would be morally and ethically repugnant.
It is becoming more and more obvious that there is no other way to persuade nations and world leaders to act as they ought to than by applying pressure from below. Reduce your driving and flying, recycle like crazy, convert to green energy tariffs, and join a protest movement if you want to make a difference. Additionally, cast your vote locally and nationally for those who support climate action. Both you and our world will ultimately feel much better for it.