This decade, and beyond will be a testing time for humanity and the environment the world over. We are already experiencing the wrath of increasingly worse extreme weather events that seem to occur with almost clockwork precision. The collective social, environmental, and economic impacts of climate change is staggering, and we are nowhere close to seeing the cumulative cost to our planet and ourselves.
Climate change and global warming have been knocking on our door for many years now, and we have largely ignored it, hoping it will move on. But this relentless force of nature is now forcing its way inside and we have no choice but to address the seriousness of the matter.
“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
So what is the scientific evidence that some still choose to be skeptical about, or to deny?
In essence, the Earth’s climate has always changed throughout history, even before humans. However here is the stinger; the current warming trend is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at an unprecedented rate. It’s not about whether there is a change happening, it’s about the increased rate of change that is happening, and it all began with the dawn of the industrial revolution. This cannot be put down to coincidence.
Climate change skeptics and deniers choose to ignore the overwhelming evidence because it simply does not align with their skewed world view, and no amount of evidence will change that view. These skeptics and deniers are not worth the effort of convincing otherwise, so let’s stop with it. Our focus should be on enabling those who can help us out of this predicament that is threatening our existence.
2016 saw the official reporting of what is probably the first mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change, the Bramble Cay melomys; extinct! There will be many other species that have already disappeared while humans continue to dramatically influence the planet’s climate. Also growing, is a list of species that are in very real danger of extinction due to climate change.
Climate change is messing with many reptile species, such as Green Turtles. Sex determination in some reptiles is influenced by the external temperature of the eggs, that is, lower temperatures produce males, and higher temperatures produce females. In the case of Green Turtles, way more females are being produced than males, and it’s not going to be good for their sex lives that’s for sure. Eventually it will impact the overall fertility in the population. Green sea turtles also play critical roles in their ecosystems, as do many species that are currently threatened with climate change. This means that individual extinction events do have wider flow-on effects in ecosystems.
Next, Polar bears are no doubt the symbol for animals suffering in our warming world. Satellite evidence is plentiful showing permanent declines in sea ice from the Arctic, and noticeable seasonal shifts in the melting of temporary sea ice. That bear clinging to the near melted iceberg is emotive imagery, however the reality is that Polar Bears now have to venture further out to find their food as their habit succumbs to climate change. Polar Bear starvation and encroachment into human settlements is the direct result of habit loss.
Another recent example is seen in the endemic Svalbard reindeer of Norway. Last year 200 reindeer were found dead from starvation, one of the highest recorded death tolls since population monitoring started in 1978. Scientists believe that climate change played a key role there.
Oceans are definitely not unaffected, and considering that the oceans are the life blood of our planet, we should be very worried. According to one recent analysis, the world’s oceans are heating up, on average, 40% faster than previous estimates. Warming oceans are negatively impacting many marine species, contributing to more adverse weather events, melting glaciers and Polar Regions, and contributing to sea level rise. In addition, as water warms, it expands; this is called Thermal Expansion. Expanding water means the sea level rises, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the impact of rising sea levels on coastal communities worldwide.
To make the scenario worse for our oceans, it is getting tagged teamed not only by the warming oceans, but also ocean acidification, pollution, overfishing, and resource extraction. It is not a good outlook for our oceans, which we heavily depend on for our survival.
While the world burns, drowns, and suffers, it is the inaction of politicians around the world who are ultimately dropping the ball in our fight for survival. A recent interview with an Australian MP is one demonstration of why little action is initiated at the political level. There is a ‘business as usual’ approach to climate change, with a side of lip-service to please the masses.
A new report from the IPPC, which is backed by thousands of scientific references, suggests that some of the worst case climate change scenarios could be felt at lower temperatures of global warming than previously predicted, and occurring decades earlier. If the world warms by just 1.5 degrees Celsius, we are in trouble. If it warms by 2 degrees Celsius or more, we are in very serious trouble.
The IPCC has been raising red flags for years, and one would think that the advice would be seriously taken on-board by our politicians, and world leaders. It has not, and we are currently on the road to mass extinction events that will include Homo sapiens as a result.
The inaction of the political elite has, however, spurred the rise of many climate activists and young leaders, who are now influencing change, by putting climate change on the global arena without representing any hidden agenda. These activists are the new generation of leaders, and give us hope that we can prevent our own demise. In fact, it is not too late if serious action is taken on climate change going forward.
We are now at the beginning of a time that will test our resilience to climate change, and our ability to adapt to it. We should also be doing all that we can to reduce the future impacts we will be experiencing in decades to follow.
The climate wars have already started and we are fighting for our very survival on this planet; but it’s a war we are currently not winning. One of our very obvious weaknesses is that we are also fighting amongst ourselves, resulting in inaction.
Today’s inaction is tomorrow’s reality, and every day that goes by without more robust plans initiated to curb global warming, is a day closer to our end.
Contributor: Noel Jhinku