In 2019, it’s likely nobody could avoid news about the continuing climate emergency. Most recently, you need only look at pictures of Australia’s ongoing bushfire disaster to understand how both the near and distant future might look if we don’t act.
As a topic, the climate emergency is extremely sensitive and emotional. It awakes many different reactions we aren't necessarily even aware of. Before you continue reading, we ask that you take a moment and explore what kinds of feelings or thoughts you notice when you hear the phrase climate emergency.
So, let’s make sure we are on the same page. Climate change today refers to variations in climate patterns largely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels causing increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the effects of these climate variations on the planet. Today, climate change can be referred to as global warming, and global warming’s tightly-woven link to Earth’s vanishing biodiversity cannot be overlooked. Together, these two issues are having catastrophic effects for us on Earth and it will only get worse if we don’t take the necessary actions stated by hundreds of scientists.
Climate change doesn’t just mean hotter summers and milder winters; it increases the likelihood of the extreme weather conditions we are becoming more accustomed to seeing. Deadly heatwaves and cold snaps, massive flood events and extended droughts, dangerous cyclones and other severe storms, or bushfires that burn for months and months are daily news, to the point where we are becoming desensitised as they lose their shock value. Rising sea levels will force millions of people to leave their homes or lose them entirely, just like millions of people already have due to rising sea levels in the Pacific, and droughts in Syria. Floods and dry seasons already impact global food security and it threatens to get direr as the weather gets more extreme and less predictable.
What does science say to back up the above? According to 500 researchers, who collected the largest report so far on the topic, we are currently living through the sixth extinction wave. The planet’s biodiversity is decreasing at a rapidly accelerating rate. Already one-quarter of all mammal species are endangered, for example, two-fifths of existing frog species are near extinct, and we are over-fishing one-third of the planet’s fish species. Where does it end? Most of this is the result of humans occupying three-quarters of land and sea regions and that has had an overwhelmingly negative effect on both flora and fauna. Reducing the rate of this vanishing biodiversity is even more difficult than taking action to prevent greatly-accelerated global warming (1).
The UK made agreements on protecting global biodiversity ten years ago, however, they have subsequently failed to meet the goals laid out. Global warming and vanishing biodiversity have severe consequences for our lives on Earth and they are closely connected, but even though today’s climate emergency is one of the most hotly-discussed topics in the daily news, little is understood by the general public.
Globally, we have to start meeting emissions targets; by 2030, the greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by 45% and the planet should be carbon neutral, to ensure we avoid the worst climate catastrophe (2). IPCC reports state that global warming must be capped at 1.5°C instead of the earlier 2°C. It might seem arbitrary, just a 0.5°C difference, but that 0.5°C difference halves the catastrophic impact on nature as we know it today (3). To mention a few;
We already see the impact of climate change. 20-40% of people live in regions where the climate is over 1.5°C warmer. In Népra’s Finnish homeland, the climate has already warmed over 2°C higher. (3) Referring to the most recent media, it should shock people when they see the apocalyptic photos of the bushfires tearing across large parts of Australia (in total an area as large as Belgium); this is a stark reminder of how our possible future on this planet will look if we do nothing. Bushfires are a relatively-frequent occurrence in Australia, but not on this magnitude or scale. The scientists warn if the climate heats up more than 2°C that is most likely, the climate breakdown will be catastrophic and irreversible and Australia is getting a taste of it. (4)
Our lifestyles today have a large impact on the big picture and we are going to write about the norms of consumption in the following posts.
Climate change is real and it is here now. It is one of the biggest clichés out there but you, yes you, can make a difference. To sit back and do nothing is the greatest disservice we can do for our planet, our home and provider. We don’t all have to go out and save the planet in one sweeping action, but lots of little changes made together in the global community will have an impact so great we might just have a shot at saving Earth for future generations.
Ama & Essi
Edited by Alex Burchell
Photos: Antti Sihlman