Breakdown of the Climate Change Report
As Weekend Update Host Colin Jost aptly put, “Scientists basically published an obituary for the Earth, and people were like, ‘Yeah but like what does Taylor Swift think about it?’”
Climate change is one of the biggest and most pressing challenges of our time because it accumulates as stress to societies all over the world and the environment. This stress can manifest in many forms. This includes shifting weather patterns that threaten food production and rising sea levels that increase flooding that endangers the lives of many individuals and the destroys their homes.
The impacts of climate change affect everyone on a global scale and at the rate that humans produce greenhouse gases, the situation grows increasingly dire. In fact, the UN recently declared that we have 12 years to save ourselves from a climate change catastrophe. However, while the UN already made this highly worrying and troubling statement, this warning has seemed to fall on deaf ears for many.
On October 1, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that found that the pledges that world governments made in 2015 at the Paris agreement are no longer enough to reach this goal.
Under the Paris climate agreement, nations agreed to take action to limit global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius, while striving towards the ideal goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 2 degrees Celsius was determined as a threshold because it was previously considered to be the point where the most severe effects of climate change would occur.
However, based on this latest report, the IPCC has stated that urgent and unprecedented changes are imperative to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius. This is particularly important because the Earth is currently experiencing some of the most severe disasters due to climate change, and this is all happening within a global warming of 1 degree Celsius.
This includes all the recent and frequent hurricanes, droughts, floods and forest fires that have been plaguing countries all over the world. Unlike regular temperature changes, half a degree Celsius worth of global warming change is a big deal because existing climate change problems greatly worsen even with that “small” change. This is why the IPCC stresses the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees Celsius.
Global warming is extremely concerning because it leads to many horrible consequences that not only harm the Earth, but also eventually the human race.
Global warming is responsible for many recent problems, including loss of habitats for animals (both land and sea), extreme weather events, coral die-off, melting ice-caps, coastal flooding, river flooding, damaged/threatened crop production, heat-related morbidity and mortality and extinction.
Many of these problems have been occurring over the past years. This includes the hurricanes that were more severe than ever, the die-off of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which consequently also led to the extinction of many species, the increasing number of forest fires and floods all over the world and many others. While the news often report about these occurrences as individual events, they all link back to global warming.
Global warming is a vicious cycle. Global warming is directly caused by human consumption and production, since those processes both generate greenhouse gases.
This can be quantified by examining each individual’s carbon footprint, which is a means to account for all the activities an individual does and quantify it into a total emissions count. All these greenhouse gases that we generate (including carbon dioxide, methane and many others) get trapped within the Earth’s atmosphere and they trap the heat that comes from the Sun. These gases are more complex than other gas molecules, which allow them to absorb heat more efficiently. Hence, the more greenhouse gases we produce, the hotter the Earth will get.
In the past few decades, greenhouse gas emissions have sharply risen due to the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are part of the carbon cycle and humans are extracting them to burn so that we can generate energy to have electricity for our daily tasks.
However, by burning these fossil fuels, we basically rapidly return the carbon to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. This leads to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which ends up warming the Earth, leading to melting ice caps. The melting ice caps not only rise sea-levels, they also similarly release carbon dioxide and methane since permafrost is carbon-rich as well. This loss of ice also makes the Earth even warmer since the snow-covered ice tends to help reflect 85 percent of sunlight.
Without this reflection, the Earth is left absorbing even more heat than it already was, increasing the warming problem. The rising sea levels also jeopardize coastal cities, with places like the Maldives and Naples slowly disappearing, as water engulfs these locations. Even in the US, in cities like Miami, residents go through sunny day flooding, where high tides cause flooding in the city, even without any rain.
This is a recent occurrence that never happened decades ago. Continuing on with the ocean, increased carbon dioxide levels have also led to the acidification of the oceans, which have consequently led to the die-off of coral and other sea-creature species that cannot tolerate the heightened pH levels. With coral dying, species of fish and crustacean begin to disappear as well, due to a loss of habitat. With the loss of all these ecosystems, any humans who live off of the ocean for food will end up suffering.
The above points are just some of the consequences of climate change and global warming. A myriad of problems arise since this affects an entire ecosystem.
However, as grave as this whole situation is, the general public has a hard time accepting the situation. Many people don’t believe in climate change in the first place, and even if they do, many feel a general apathy towards the situation. This is mostly because the issue of climate change is not a clearly visible or trackable situation. Since people can’t feel or perceive the situation as they live their lives, they feel a lack of urgency to address this problem. This is a very natural reaction and it is an inherent problem of the situation.
A way to avoid this apathy is to learn about the situation. The increase in consumption amongst humans is a prime culprit for the dramatic increase in emissions. This includes our increased consumption of energy and products. This includes every facet of our lives, including the food we eat, the transportation we use and many other aspects. Hence, it means that every human being can help make a change based on the decisions that we make in our lives.
This includes small things like eating less meat, conserving energy by turning the lights off, recycling, reducing and reducing, using public transportation/carpooling, buying less clothes, only consuming what you need and many other methods.
While these decisions seem insignificant in our daily lives, they accumulate to be large changes if a large collective does so, especially over time. It is true that large corporations are the biggest culprits for these emission problems, our demand drives their supply.
This means that as consumers, we should make smart consuming decisions where we don’t support companies that make socially irresponsible decisions in their production process, because ultimately, by purchasing from these companies, you allow them to perpetuate these poor environmental habits.
As a whole, this report should serve as a wake-up call and we need to receive this as a chance to make amends before it is too late, rather than giving up on the world. We are directly responsible for protecting this planet and we need to acknowledge this situation and start becoming smart consumers and more environmentally conscious individuals. We only have the Earth and no planet B. We need to start making more prominent changes to save the planet, and ourselves.