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Climate Change, Scepticism and What it All Means

Updated on May 15, 2019
Eoin Cunningham profile image

Eoin is an Undergraduate student studying Geography in the National University of Ireland Galway.

What You Need to Know

The research is now clear and indisputable that human activity is directly affecting our climate. Greenhouse gas emissions have been rising since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid-twentieth century and will continue to do so unless humanity is willing to change its behavioural systems, put aside its differences and take affirmative action to stop the rot before it is too late.

During the industrial revolution, the resources of the earth were heavily extracted for economic gain, a trend which has continued to this day and is showing no signs of letting up. These resources include fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which are well known to contain high amounts of greenhouse gases which are released back into the atmosphere when they are consumed. These resources were used then and are still being used now to generate energy, which is vital for economic growth and to fuel our high consumption lifestyles. It is no coincidence world superpowers share one thing in common, an abundance of natural resources at their disposal.

The Stern review conducted in 2006 forecast that if we continue to exploit our planet for short term economic gain, then average temperatures could rise by 5°C above pre-industrial levels. The level of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere before the industrial revolution was found to amount to 280 parts per million. The Stern review states that current levels of carbon dioxide equivalent per million parts in the atmosphere equate to 430. The report notes that failure to keep carbon dioxide equivalent in the earth's atmosphere to between 450 and 550 parts per million will almost certainly have a drastic effect on not only the planet but the species which inhabit it, that includes human beings.


Why You Should Care

To some of you, an increase in temperature sounds like music to your ears. An excuse to go day drinking in the beer garden, a day out to the beach and not too mention the now endless possibilities for you to get a sizzling tan. However, the reality is much more tragic.

Climate change is not a simple or fixed entity. An artificial increase in the earth's temperature does not equate to warmer temperatures from day to day. It is a complex, dynamic and unknown process which will have permanent and uncontrollable effects. Regions of the world, which already suffer from adverse weather conditions will see the frequency and intensity of these anomalies increase significantly.

As it stands, many areas of the world cannot deal with natural phenomenons such as flooding and coastal erosion. Take iconic cities such as London and Amsterdam, for example. Global Warming of the extortionate level suggested would give way to sea level rise which would render these cities uninhabitable.

The Stern review estimates that warming of 3°-4° will culminate in sea level rise, flooding and droughts of such magnitude that by the middle of the 21st century 200 million worldwide people will be displaced. The social equation of integrating minorities coming from the Global South to the Global North is already complicated enough as it is with people struggling to see past issues of ethnicity and race resulting in these people marginalised in their new-found communities. On top of the current problems add 200 million refugees, and you have a humanitarian, social and political crisis of biblical proportions.

Warming of 4°C is likely to affect Global food production negatively, and warming of 2° is anticipated to result in 15-40% of species facing extinction. So you can now add crop failure, the devastation that an exponential loss of species would cause to the global food chain as well as the failure of ecological, physical and aquatic systems into the equation now as well.

Everything in our ecosystems is interconnected. If plankton on the very bottom of the earth's ocean become extinct, then the smaller fish who eat them become extinct too because they no longer have a food source. The fish that rely on them as a food source then go extinct also, and the process continues in that vein until eventually, it begins to impact life on land. World hunger is already an issue, can you imagine what would happen if global fish stocks were depleted?


The Takeaway

Climate Change is a matter of the utmost importance and should be dealt with as such. It will affect all members of the human race and no amount of money or scepticism will change that. Action is needed now before it is too late.


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