everyday sciencepopular science

climate change: do you even care?

on-going effects of the climate crisis breakdown

Climate change.

It’s harsh realness on Earth indeed, but somehow, these two words seem to dry the hell of us, pun intended. I’d dare to say climate change bores us even more than the (in)famous sexual harassment, or the f word — feminism. Don’t @ me.

We don’t care much about climate, and why would we, look — it’s a pleasantly warm November day outside.

Most of the human population of our melting planet has this somewhat careless way of thinking. It’s either nihilistic behavior or tiresome advocating toward saving our planet — while we still can. One extreme to the other.

In the gray zone, years ago, perhaps, we needed a strong slap of science in the cerebrum to understand climate change. Now, a look through the window will do alongside random browsing daily headlines.
And somewhere, in the midst of multiple hurricanes-forest fires-floods news, you’ll find the tips (aka caveats) on how you, could and should stop the *global* crises.

Less plastic, zero waste, more walking, hybrid vehicles.
All true, all true.

But here’s the thing, turning environmentalism and eco-movement into personal heroism is kinda dangerous.

Why? Oh, you know, it’s not that 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from just 100 corporations.

Knowing that straight from the Carbon Majors Report claiming that a green-sin-free individual is absolutely crucial to saving the planet is evidently wrong.

It’s victim-blaming, plain and simple. It goes without saying, being empathetic to Earth is a good thing to do, even though it’s probably just one drop in the (acidic) ocean of pollution.

How can you meet the ends with 100 fossil fuel producers and nearly 1 trillion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions?

Scientists have been warning us for decades that humans are causing severe and potentially irreversible changes to the climate, basically barbecuing our planet and themselves with carbon dioxide. What is science trying to say?

That, my friends, we have roughly a decade to make massive, and I mean massive, changes to stop the worst impacts of climate change.

But the scary shit is that it’s all already happening. Human-caused climate change has already been proven to increase the risk of floods and extreme rainfall, heatwaves, and wildfires with implications for humans, animals, and the environment.

In case you are not in touch with the real effects of climate change present as you read this, I’ll  just tackle a few:

winter is not coming — and it’s not a good thing

San Francisco hit a new scorching temperature record this June with 38°C. The same record-breaking goes with British Columbia (28,4°C) and Delhi (48°C!) suggesting that this summer, heatwaves have begun anew in the Northern Hemisphere.

indonesia will move its capital city as Jakarta is sinking

Earlier this year, Indonesia announced its plans to move the capital city away from Jakarta. Home to over ten million people, some parts of Jakarta are sinking as much as 25cm per year. Jakarta is in an unsafe position thanks to a combination of two factors – rising global sea levels and land subsidence as underground water supplies have been drained away to meet water needs.

This grim picture is repeated elsewhere too. In the Pacific, at least eight islands were swallowed by the sea in the last century, with Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands feared to be the next low-lying nations to be completely wiped off the map.

Sea levels are rising at the fastest rate in 3,000 years, an average of three millimeters per year. The two major causes of sea-level rise are thermal expansion – the ocean is warming and warmer water expands – and melting of glaciers and ice sheets that increase the flow of water. Antarctica and Greenland hold enough frozen water to raise global sea levels by about 65 meters if they were to melt completely. Even if this scenario is unlikely, these ice masses are already melting faster. And island nations and coastal regions are feeling the impact.]

WANTED: Climate Change for having more than 1 million species at risk of extinction

The average size of vertebrate (mammals, fish, birds, and reptiles) populations declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014, according to the biennial Living Planet Report published by the Zoological Society of London and the WWF.

An international panel of scientists, backed by the UN, argues that climate change is playing an increasing role in driving species to extinction. It is thought to be the third biggest driver of biodiversity loss after changes in land and sea use and overexploitation of resources. Even under a two degrees Celsius warming scenario, 5% of animal and plant species will be at risk of extinction. Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to extreme warming events, their cover could be reduced to just one percent of current levels at two degrees Celsius of warming.

Half of all amphibians are at risk of extinction due to climate change — so prepare to explain to future generations what’s a frog or salamander. Extinction is a natural phenomenon, claiming about five species per year. But some studies suggest we’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction — one that is caused mostly by human activity.

Scientists estimate dozens of species of plants and animals currently go extinct each day —nearly 1,000 times the natural rate. By mid-century, as many as 30 to 50% of the total species found on Earth will be gone forever.

the worst impacts of climate change could be irreversible by 2030

In its 2018 special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we only have twelve years to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. The year 2020 is now only two months away — leaving us just a decade to halve our emissions to avert the worst climate impacts— yet little has changed regarding our release of greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.N. climate report and subsequent reports have warned us that global carbon pollution must be cut in half in the next 10 years for us to avoid catastrophic, irreversible damage to our planet. And yet we’re going in the opposite direction.

dengue fever could spread through much of the southeastern US by 2050

Dengue is the world’s fastest-growing mosquito-borne virus, currently killing some 10,000 people and affecting around 100 million per year. As global temperatures are rising, Aedes aegypti mosquitos that carry the disease could thrive in places that were previously unsuitable for them and benefit from shorter incubation periods. A recent study published in the scientific journal Nature warned that, in a warming world, dengue could spread to the US, higher altitudes in central Mexico, inland Australia and to large coastal cities in eastern China and Japan.

we have consumed all of Earth’s 2019 resources by July 29

Earth Overshoot Day is a symbolic date on which humanity’s consumption for the year, exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources within the 365 day period.

Guess the date for 2019? It was on July 29.

The cost of this overspending includes deforestation, soil erosion, overfishing, and CO2 build-up in the atmosphere, which leads to global warming, more severe droughts, wildfires, and other extreme weather events.

humans die, too

Rising temperatures — coupled with a growing number of people in cities and an increasing population of elderly — have increased heat-related deaths, according to a 2018 study in The Lancet.

The report concluded that the lack of adaptive capacities and effort toward reducing emissions threatens human lives and the national health systems people rely on, by pushing services to their limit and disrupting core infrastructure.

But hyperthermia is not the only risk climate change brings to human life. Higher temperatures worsen air quality, negatively affect crop production, increase the spread of infectious diseases and threaten freshwater deposits.
A warming world also increases the intensity of natural disasters.
While instances of wildfires have decreased over the years, according to the WMO, the burn area and intensity of fires have increased. Wildfires are currently ripping through California — claiming more than 94,000 acres of land, 129 million trees, and displacing 200,000 people to date in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hurricanes are reaching new extremes, too. The frequency of high-intensity hurricanes — ranked as categories 4 and 5 — has increased over the last 30 years. It has become immensely more difficult to escape these storms unscathed, and it will only get harder in the future.
Climate change is shifting the seasons, too. Falls, winters, and springs are growing shorter, while summer extends into the supposedly cooler months. North American winters are losing snow and ice, even.

there’s more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than at any time in human history

In May, sensors at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii – which has tracked Earth’s atmospheric concentration of CO2 since the late 1950s – detected a CO2 concentration of 415.26 ppm. The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago when sea levels were several meters higher and trees grew at the South Pole. Scientists have warned that carbon dioxide levels higher than 450ppm are likely to lock in catastrophic and irreversible changes in the climate. Around half of the CO2 emitted since 1750 has been in the last 40 years.

two-thirds of extreme weather events in the last 20 years were influenced by humans

The number of floods and heavy rains has quadrupled since 1980 and doubled since 2004. Extreme temperatures, droughts, and wildfires have also more than doubled in the last 40 years. While no extreme weather event is ever down to a single cause, climate scientists are increasingly exploring the human fingerprints on floods, heatwaves, droughts, and storms. Carbon Brief gathered data from 230 studies into “extreme event attribution” and found that 68% of all extreme weather events studied in the last 20 years were made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change. Heatwaves account for 43% of such events, droughts make up 17% and heavy rainfall or floods account for 16%.

carbon emissions from energy use are rising at the fastest rate since 2011

Extreme weather is driving up the demand for energy. Carbon emissions from global energy use jumped 2% in 2018, according to BP’s annual world energy study. This was the fastest growth in seven years and is roughly the carbon equivalent to increasing the number of passenger cars worldwide by a third. The unusual number of hot and cold days last year resulted in increased use of cooling and heating systems powered by natural gas and coal. The energy sector accounts for two-thirds of all carbon emissions.

120,000 square kilometers of tropical forest were lost in 2018

The world’s tropical forests are shrinking at a staggering rate, the equivalent of 30 football pitches per minute. Whilst some of this loss may be attributed to natural causes such as wildfires, forest areas are primarily cleared to make way for cattle or agricultural products such as palm oil and soybeans. Deforestation contributes to global carbon emissions because trees naturally capture and lock away carbon as they grow.

When forest areas are burnt, carbon that took decades to store is immediately released back into the atmosphere. Tropical deforestation is now responsible for 11% of the world’s CO2 emissions – if it were considered a country, tropical deforestation would be the third-largest emitter after China and the US.

the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has compounded the research released in the 2018 IPCC report, stating that 20 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the last 22 years.

The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas stated in a press release. The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean.

The years with the highest temperatures since 1880 were 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. This one, 2019 is going to be another recorder, all things considered.

So, are you scared for our future, yet, and why not?

For real.

*anxiety builds up*

Leave a reply

Next Article:

0 %