We are drifting away from the main issues on the climate change front and that has resulted in changes that we have dreaded the most. Changes that we expected would occur in the middle of the century are already happening. Extreme weather has become the norm around the plant. The polar ice caps are melting, killing the polar bear and the seal, and allowing ships to travel freely for greater periods. More carbon dioxide has meant greater temperatures while we haven’t been able to do anything to control the number of livestock.
The Studies Behind Climate Change
11,000 global scientists got together in 2019 and declared a global emergency. They identified parameters to determine the health of the planet, including subsidies on fossil fuel, the loss of forests, the vanishing polar ice, the rise in the acidity of the oceans, and a surge in ocean temperatures.
A fresh paper has based its study on the 2019 figures. The overall impact of the changes is expected to be devastating.
Most vital signs are indicating signs of ill-health. It indicates that things have gone along the same lines and nothing much has changed to give humanity hope for the future.
The most striking signs of climate change have been the successive disasters including, floods, mega-fires, unprecedented heat waves, unrelenting storms, and disappearing islands caused by the rising seas.
To top it all, levels of 3 greenhouse gases, methane, nitrous oxide, and CO2 have reached record levels of concentration in 2020, and 2021 figures are predicted to be worse. Carbon dioxide levels reached a record 416 parts per million in April 2021. This was matched by record temperatures. 2020 was the second warmest ever, and 5 of the hottest years have come after 2015, indicating that we are in for a new normal when it comes to climate change.
Another worrying sign is the increase in the number of livestock. There are over 4 billion of them on earth, including sheep, goats, buffalo, and cattle. Their combined weight is equal to all the other animals on earth, including man. These cattle are responsible for rising methane levels, harming biodiversity, and are accountable for the stripping down of forests across the world to create pasture land.
The Amazon rainforests continue to lose their trees at an increased pace and 2019 and 2020 were the worst on record, thanks to the policies of the new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who has given the loggers, and the cattle industry a free run over the Amazon forests, 60% of which lie in Brazil.
The acidification of the oceans, another cause for climate change is also close to its highest ever. Combined with warmer waters, it could spell doom for the invaluable coral reefs which support over a billion people with food and protection against storms.
The unusual weather patterns over the planet are the most visible signs that climate change is truly upon us. June 2021 was the hottest ever recorded in the US for over a century. It was 4 degrees above the average. Both Canada and the US were unable to deal with it as it killed people in their hundreds and led to the wildfires that are raging in close to a dozen states in the western US.
The average increase might seem small, but they are significant. The planet has seen an increase in average temperatures by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Though seemingly small it might be the tipping point that could have an important bearing on extreme heat events. Dr. Radly Horton at Columbia University says that such a dangerous combination of high temperatures and humidity could double in the coming years.
Over 95% of the western part of North America is in the grip of a severe drought. The heat has dried out the forests and grasslands, and the fires this year are more severe than any on record. Some fires were large enough to cause independent weather systems that cause lighting strikes leading to even more fires.
Further east, there has been a surge of flash floods and hard rain. Western India, China, Germany have experienced unprecedented rains concentrated over a small timeframe. Hundreds have been killed in the subsequent floods. The heat has meant more moisture in the air in some regions. Upper atmospheric winds have also slowed down due to the heat and have caused weather systems to linger over one place for long, dumping rains in one place.
Getting Your Act Together To Tackle Climate Change
The 2019 paper had outlined 6 core areas where governments and individuals could act to avoid the worst impact caused by climate change.
The most important step was to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources that give utmost importance to energy efficiency and emit low or zero amounts of carbon. Reducing the emission of pollutants such as soot and methane was listed as a priority.
A vital step was to bring to an immediate halt the clearing of forest land. It would help restore the ecosystem and greatly reduce the pace of climate change. Meat production causes huge carbon emission that leads to climate changes.
Cutting down on the production of meat could cut down on the emission of greenhouse gases, and stop the clearing of forest land for creating pasture land to feed the cattle.
We must move away from the use of unsustainable resources that puts increasing pressure on our natural resources. We also need to slow down the pace of increase in the human population and ultimately aim for negative growth. This can be achieved through education, especially training girls and women.
As a near-term policy, climate changes can be controlled through the implementation of carbon pricing. It should be high enough to dissuade the carbonization of the planet.
It would also be important to gradually phase out the use of fossil fuels. Another step would be the creation of environmental reserves that will protect and restore biodiversity and natural carbon sinks.
Halting the exploitation of every form of natural habitats caused by agriculture, mining, and urbanization will also help protect carbon stocks, reduce the risk of animal-borne diseases and help simultaneously safeguard biodiversity. There is a glimmer of hope as we realize what needs to be done. But to have any hope to achieve that, we require urgent action to address climate change. And that can only happen if the world gets together to save the planet.