It’s probably fair to say that there’s a fair few angry people around the world this week following the immoral, arrogant decision by an alleged leader of a country to back out of the Paris Agreement. When it comes to climate change, there can be no my country first, no prioritise economic growth, no serving the interests of our industries. Those things are important, of course they are, because who would deny humanity the chance to develop? But what will be the point in having all of these things when our very lives, our very planet is pushed beyond sustainable limits?
Climate change isn’t someone else’s problem, this is our home, our home. Not mine, not yours, certainly not the fools that are in power in countries who talk about doing the best for their people yet clearly don’t have their peoples’ best interests at heart. Climate change will not discriminate. It will not care how much wealth you offer it, how great your business acumen is, how many of your peers think the sun shines out of your arse. What it will do, is drastically reshape our way of life, strip us of all our achievements, and turn this planet into a husk, or waterworld – and we know how bad a film that was (other versions of apocalypse are available).
Now, I said that climate change is inescapable and will come for all of us, and we know that’s true. And though it won’t discriminate, it will likely divide us further, because those already impoverished, malnourished, living in places most likely to bear the brunt of whatever climate change with throw at us; they’re the ones that are going to be hit hardest. Are we seriously going to sit there and watch fellow citizens of this planet suffer more than they already are? Just so we can line our pockets a bit more, stick a pray for **insert country of choice here** status on our social medias and pat ourselves on our backs for a job well done?
Climate change deniers, I don’t know where the hell you’re getting your information from. If you know anything about the scientific method (I’ll presume not), you know hypotheses and research don’t come out of thin air, or get cherry picked to fit your way of thinking. Science is cold, irrefutable fact, and yes, science fucks up; we learn things and change our ways of thinking, only to discover new data that says oops, we were wrong, this is how we now think it is. Science is about learning and relearning a hundred times over if necessary; it’s how we grow as a species, it’s how we discover our pasts and attempt to steer our futures somewhere good, worth heading for. To have a future to head towards
There is literally no excuse for being uneducated about the things that matter in the way of our world today, not with the seemingly infinite amount of information to hand on the internet. Here’s a few things about climate change, in case you don’t feel like googling it yourself.
When people talk about climate change, some people argue that what’s happening with our climate now has happened before, and will happen again, with or without our interference, so there’s nothing to worry about – natural processes and all, blah blah blah. And yes, a lot of that is at least in part true. The Earth has existed as both so-called greenhouse and icehouse worlds throughout its history throughout the Phanerozoic eon – the geological eon that we live in; Holocene epoch if you want to get specific, and Anthropocene if you want to be really topical or up to date. Right now, we’re actually in an icehouse climate, though you’d probably picture a much icier landscape than the one outside our windows today (depending on where you live, naturally).
The Late Cretaceous (100.5–66 Ma) is a good place to look for historical climate change – natural climate change – because us humans weren’t around to be blamed for that so theoretically, there’s nothing to argue about. At that time, basaltic lava erupted through the boundaries of the tectonic plates that ran under the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and in other places there were huge volcanic eruptions of sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide – some of which was absorbed by the ocean, but also fair amount that escaped into the atmosphere. At this time, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is thought to have been between 4 and 18 times our current levels.
Now, carbon dioxide along with other greenhouse gases such as methane, and even water vapour, they’re kind of like coiled springs of energy. They vibrate when they absorb infrared radiation, and likely will spit that radiation back out for it to be absorbed elsewhere. Effectively, this cycle of absorption-emission-absorption forms a blanket – the greenhouse effect – that holds on to the heat near the Earth’s surface and keeps us toasty; we do need to keep warm somehow, so we don’t all freeze to death, just… not to the excess that climate change could potentially bring.
One theory scientists propose happening at the end of the Cretaceous, was that oceanic anoxic events contributed to a regulation of the Earth’s atmosphere – a natural, self-regulating process. Organic matter got ‘locked away’ in black shales, effectively scrubbing carbon dioxide from the ocean and storing it away where it couldn’t be used. And as the carbon dioxide in the ocean was depleted, more of it was absorbed from the atmosphere, bringing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration levels back down. Nature is good, nature is wise; most of it, anyway.
So what’s the problem with climate change currently?
Historically, as mentioned above, there have been periods of high and low carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere – you can see it in peaks and troughs here. But on the first of June 2017, the Keeling Curve compiling data from the Mauna Loa Observatory showed we’d reached 409ppm which is essentially considered a recipe for disaster. Think of it like this: that natural, self-regulating process we saw back in the Cretaceous still takes place today. The ocean absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But if global temperatures increase, that’s going to heat the oceans and slow down its circulation. And if ocean circulation slows down, surface water will become saturated with carbon dioxide, and the oceans as a whole will slow their carbon dioxide uptake. Negative feedback systems? Well, this would be it.
So heres some theories of what climate change will bring us. We’ve got the melting of ice caps which everyone already knows about. Won’t impact you? How lovely; tell that to members of AOSIS, a coalition of small islands and low-lying coastal areas predicted to be hit hardest if sea levels rise what’s really, just a tiny amount. These places are at risk of inundation, or total annihilation. And we all might be at the mercy of worsening storms, harsher tornados, higher risks of tsunamis, exacerbated El Niño effects as well as La Niña; you’ve heard all the apocalyptic theories that have been proposed over the years, but they’re not just things out of disaster stories, we’ve already seen some of the effects already start happening.
Climate change doesn’t just mean we all get a bit of a sun tan. It means shifting of habitats and therefore to biodiversity, changes to agricultural methods, scarcer freshwater sources, increased vectors that are responsible for the spread of diseases, such as malaria. Changes in food supply, worsening air pollution, which in turn lead to health problems… this list is endless, there’s not a facet of our lives that wouldn’t be impacted in some way.
Climate change, then, is a natural phenomenon, that was experienced by our planet long before us humans started springing up all over its surface. Carbon dioxide concentration has fluctuated over time, we’re not doubting that: what’s concerning is the rate at which we’re chucking carbon dioxide up into the atmosphere, and what the fallout of that might be – that’s barely scratching the surface of the things we’re doing. Anthropomorphic change is what we are doing to this world; from carbon dioxide emissions, damaging the ozone layer, pollution, eutrophication, bleaching of corals, hunting species into extinction, depleting the Earth’s resources: we don’t know for sure what’s going to be the outcome of all the things we do. Neither can we be ignorant, or complacent about it, if we want our future generations to have a world to exist in.
Sustainable, renewable energy sources are available, and not just the solar energy, or windfarms we hear so much about. There are in addition to these other, cleaner alternatives that people in some industries tend to whine about and say will never happen or be nearly effective enough; how about investing in these renewables, both at home and overseas in less wealthy countries, instead of turning a blind eye, adopting NIMBYism, or worse, denying there are any alternatives. The question we possibly should be considering is why renewable energy sources are vastly more expensive than those based on fossil fuel. Not enough profit, huh?
Now, there’s all sorts of stuff I’ve missed out in this typing splurge above, like, for example, the amount of methane that’s locked up in our ice caps that’s potentially going to be released into our atmosphere, further exacerbating the greenhouse gas problem. There are all kinds of other problems we face related to those I’ve mentioned and so many more; this is obviously not a scientific paper looking to be peer reviewed, because I have no hypothesis nor methodology to write out; all I do have is an unwavering love of this planet, and genuine fear that we’re going to destroy it. I haven’t planned this out in the slightest (as you can tell), but it’s taken me mere minutes to find credible, reliable sources for the information and links that I’ve provided; if you’re interested in this planet having a future, look. Please.
No one is saying the human race shouldn’t innovate and develop. What we’re saying is, how can countries that are already ‘developed’, point fingers at other countries and tell them how they need to reduce their emissions whilst doing little themselves? How can they selfishly, arrogantly say, well learn from our lessons but we’re not going to contribute anything to this effort because we’ve got our own economy to grow. How can we continue to take this world for granted when it’s the only home we have? How pigheaded is that?
We all sit here and nod when we see things we agree with on our dashboards. We all, from time to time, like I’ve just done, do some kind of keyboard smashing when something hits a nerve about the things we are passionate about. But seriously, us armchair social warriors, what are we truly doing to help this world? Maybe we should remind each other that by helping this planet, we are in fact helping ourselves; surely that will appeal to the egotistical natures of so many of us.
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