Climate change probably isn’t an alien subject to most people. It’s the name given to the man-made changing of the planet’s climate due to the action of burning fossils fuels and deforestation, among other things.
Worryingly, a report recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that ‘unprecedented’ changes are needed to stave off dire impacts if the world warms 1.5°C beyond the pre-industrial period. A rise of 1.5°C doesn’t sound like much, but it is enough to cause havoc on a global scale, causing changes to weather patterns leading to more extreme weather.
Hurricanes such as Katrina could be the new norm, or even worse. This will lead to famine, flooding, lack of resources such as food and water, and ultimately to war over available resources. The target of keeping rising global temperatures to within 1.5°C and 2°C was one of the key points of the Paris Agreement, which became effective as of 4th November 2016.
Currently humankind is altering the landscape and atmosphere of the planet at a rate which is has not been seen in its 4.5 billion year history. Species are becoming extinct at an accelerated rate—extinctions have historically taken place over relatively short periods of geological time, not a generation or a lifetime.
Even the extinction of the dinosaurs, which most people think of as an instantaneous event, took around 1,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is returning carbon that was once locked up inside the fuel to the atmosphere where it traps heat which would usually escape into space.
The loss of rainforests, that would usually act as a sink to hold all of this additional carbon, isn’t helping. All of these interplay, and by altering the way weather systems and oceans function, we are putting our own survival in jeopardy.
There is hope though as the report states that the target is still affordable and feasible, although it lies at the ambitious end of the Paris Agreement, which is still within reach. This is a battle that isn’t just going to be won by governments alone. The people of each nation need to come together to put the pressure on policymakers to delivery radical change. There are a number of online resources where you can find how to reduce your carbon footprint, such as eating less meat and recycling. The report states that we would need to cut carbon pollution by almost half by 2030 to have any chance of starting to reverse the changes we’ve already initiated. With more need than ever to reduce our damage to the fragile ecosystems on Earth, it is hoped that new technology and a growing conscious society will help to fuel the green revolution. If we don’t then the evidence is clear, our species as well as countless others may very well go extinct within our lifetime.