Prepare for the ultimate crisis
A global pandemic, the Australian fires, the Black Lives Matter movement, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, extreme floods all around the world… As if the first six months of 2020 couldn’t be more chaotic and uncertain, the ultimate crisis is just around the corner.
We have a superhuman complex. In the last 100 years we’ve walked on the moon, we’ve cloned animals, we’ve created hundreds of vaccines… we’ve accomplished so much that we believe we are invincible, but we are more vulnerable than ever.
We face yet another crisis, a global climate change crisis, which threatens life on Earth as we know it, and nobody seems to be taking it seriously.
What is global climate change
Global climate change refers to the average long-term variations in climate conditions over the entire Earth. These include warming temperatures, shifts in precipitation, rising sea levels, shrinking mountain glaciers, ice melting at a faster rate than usual, extinction of species, and the list goes on and on.
Earth’s climate is constantly changing, and it was changing before humans even came into the picture. But the average temperature has consistently been increasing — and at a much faster pace — over the past 120 years.
A peek into the near future
Some parts of the world are already experiencing the effects of a climate crisis and the Cape Town water crisis in South Africa is the most popular one. Dam water levels had been decreasing since 2015 in South Africa, and in 2017, there was a period of critical water shortage in the Western Cape region. Water levels were between 15 and 30 per cent of total dam capacity, and in late 2017, there were mentions of plans for “Day Zero”, referencing the day when the water level of the major dams supplying the City fell below 13.5%. Day Zero would indicate the start of severe water restrictions: local water supplies would mostly be switched off and citizens would have to queue for their daily ration of water. The City of Cape Town implemented significant water restrictions to control water usage and succeeded in decreasing its daily water usage by more than half in March 2018.
But water shortage is not the only problem that we will face in the near future — or that we are already facing for that matter. Change in ecosystems and desertification, acidification of the oceans, extreme weather phenomena such as violent hurricanes or severe floods, extinction of species, massive migrations and rising sea levels that will wipe out entire cities should be our main concern.
The existence of climate refugees, still to be recognized by the United Nations, is a reality; it is estimated their number could reach one billion by 2050
Climate change is also partially responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic and other outbreaks such as Ebola or MERS. The demand for more natural resources has forced humans to invade many natural habitats and expose themselves to several unknown pathogens. At the same time, the increase of mass production of food has created large-scale farms, where extensive numbers of livestock and poultry are crammed into mega barns, which makes the spread and mutation of these viruses more likely.
Politics and the climate crisis
When it comes to the climate crisis, few countries are actually taking action. The oil industry and large corporations have a lot of leverage, making it in politician’s worst interest to invest in green energy or increase taxes on not eco-friendly products. The general scientific consensus on the effects of climate change is constantly questioned by those who want to scale-up or scale-down the existing levels of urgency and austerity in its assessment.
The hard truth is though, that power and politics play a crucial role in all of this. Without reforming the laws and putting humans’ well-being as a priority instead of enormous sums of money for financing shady oil business deals, nothing will change.
But the bigger obstacle is that most politicians acknowledge that we have a problem, but won’t do anything about it — because nobody wants a leader that spends a larger portion of the annual budget in sustainability and not on defence right? Let’s also take the U.S as an example of a toxic denial: according to the U.S President Donald Trump, global climate change is not even real, so how do we expect to make a difference if the people on top aren’t invested in making one?
Climate change is a global challenge that has no borders and to combat it requires coordinated work by all countries.
The social and economic costs of a climate crisis will be huge, and global warming tends to intensify economic and racial inequities. Consequently, another issue that countries risk facing is “climate apartheid”.
“We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer” — Philip Alston
A recent U.N. report states that global warming will have far-reaching effects on just about any humanitarian issue — housing, migration, and more. “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval” — it adds. Because at the end of the day, if water resources are scarce and only accessible for a few, people with more money are first in line, which opens a big debate on human rights that doesn’t seem to end well.
According to U.N. rapporteur Philip Alston, climate change could push at least 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 unless immediate action is taken. Furthermore, a 2015 report states that climate change threatens to leave an additional 600 million people exposed to malnutrition by 2080. So unless people, governments, and the different countries agree to make a real change, we face a crisis which we do not know to solve.
It’s not too late
While global climate change is something that needs to be tackled by governments, we can also help make a difference by living a more sustainable life.
The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions and it’s the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. Fast fashion relies on cheap mass-manufacturing, regular consumption and short clothing use. Therefore, investing in sustainably made clothes and reducing the amount of shopping we do can have a huge impact on the planet.
In total, up to 85% of textiles go into landfills each year. That’s enough to fill the Sydney harbour annually
Nowadays everything is wrapped in plastic, and despite the store’s efforts to reduce it, there seems to be little we can do; but living reducing plastic usage is possible. Always bring a reusable bag when shopping, eliminate plastic cutlery, try to purchase food in bulk — and bring your own container — , use a reusable water bottle or mug instead of a plastic water bottle for drinks, make your period plastic-free — with a menstrual cup — , and the list goes on and on.
Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions
Our diet and food choices have a large impact on our carbon footprint. By reducing your meat intake, buying local products and lessening food waste, you can help the planet and be healthier at the same time.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for about 29 per cent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of U.S. GHG emissions.
During the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve all seen the effect that private transportation can have on pollution, where CO2 levels greatly decreased after the whole world was on lockdown.
When possible, use public transportation and bike or walk to places; and if you need to use a car, give your friends, family or colleagues a ride if you’re all going to the same place to avoid using too many vehicles.
Educating others is crucial in these times. Speaking up and familiarising friends, family and colleagues with the issue will help them make informed choices in the future and it will help bring awareness to this problem.