Over the course of the Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, the climate has changed a lot. There have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat in the last 650,000 years with the abrupt end of the previous Ice age about 7000 years ago.
So, why there is so much buzz about it and Why Climate Change is an issue now?
The rapid warming we’re seeing now can’t be explained by natural cycles of warming and cooling by Earth. The kind of changes that would normally happen over hundreds of thousands of years is happening in decades now. Global temperatures are at their highest since records began. The atmospheric CO2 has been increasing since the industrial revolution. So when people talk about climate change today, they mean man-made climate change.
Ninety-seven per cent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.
Human activities are changing the natural greenhouse. Over the last century the burning of fossil fuels, industrial activities have increased the concentration of CO2 increases the earth’s surface temperature which causes changes to our natural climate systems leading to droughts, hurricanes and storms.
The most polluting countries seem to be aware of reducing their emissions, but carbon dioxide emissions still continue to rise. China is contributing 30%, followed by the United States contributing 15% and India by 7%.
According to the reports from WHO, Fourteen out of the world’s 15 most contaminated cities are in India, and it is said to be one of the riskiest countries in the world to breathe. More than 4 in 10 Indians are exposed to 5 times the safe limit of particulate matter in the air they breathe. A study published in The Lancet estimated that in 2017 air pollution killed 12.4 lakh Indians, half of them younger than 70.
In India, where industrial emissions, cars and the burning of crop residue, wood, and charcoal are standard features of daily existence, it will require significant political willpower for air pollution levels to fall. Perhaps the growing evidence on the millions of deaths caused by air pollution may spark a change but don’t get your hopes high. Out of the 12.4 lakh killed, 11 lakh people belonged to rural areas. Air pollution is a threat for all of us but its the poor who bear the most of the burden having fewer resources and money to get proper treatment in time.
About 50 % of people still rely on biomass like wood and cow dung for heating and cooking that contributes to climate change through carbon emissions, deforestation and toxic air pollution. The particulates from the rural area blanket the metro where it commingles with traffic exhaust, factory emissions and construction dust, leading to an increase in air pollution. India’s hills and mountains act as basins that trap toxic air over vast swaths of the country, and that’s one of the reasons why Delhi has the worst condition. People in India have their life expectancy cut short by 5.3 years and two districts in Delhi by 12 years.
It is not only the people in the rural area responsible but also the people in metros and their opulent lifestyle. Transport currently accounts for 34% of a household’s carbon footprint. Over the decade, As the number of people in the household decreased, the number of vehicles per household increased. Out of 1000, 980 in the U.S, 850 in the U.K and 774 individuals in NZ own a car. We are now so adapted to the comfort of travelling in a vehicle that a short walk down the road to buy groceries is a bit too much for us. Public transports and railways are not up to the standards for the upper-class society. Carpooling is not encouraged as riding alone speaks class and volume and riding a cycle or coming to office in auto has become an embarrassment for us. Owning a car is now a way to show off the rich status than a necessity for people.
Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. The U.S represents just 5 per cent of the world population, but it consumes at least one-quarter of practically every natural resource. As it is the only industrialized country in the world still experiencing significant population growth, the high rate of resource consumption is expected to continue in the coming years. If everyone consumed resources at the US level, which is what the world aspires to, we will need another four or five piles of earth to survive. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why we are spending a lot of money on going to Mars and space research instead of funding climate change in Earth and helping to tackle it.
Wealthy people who identify themselves to be green are actually contributing more to climate change by doing things that don’t reduce energy use and carbon footprints like per living space, energy used for household appliances, meat consumption, car use and frequent vacation travel by air or ships. Around 70% of flights are taken by 15% of the population of the world.
With the growing demand for better gadgets and technology, the earth is dug up for more rare minerals. The purpose of many technologies is to control or improve upon nature for the perceived benefit of humanity. High Advance technologies are used by scientists to see the big picture, collect different types of information about our planet and its climate change on a global scale, but any disturbance of these natural processes by technology is likely to result in unavoidable and unexpected environmental impacts which would worsen the conditions.
We as Human beings are not generally accustomed to thinking about things over long time scales. Climate change is a huge thing and has been happening for so many years, and the impact of it has just been realized now. Easy changes and short-time solutions will not be enough now to tackle climate change. It is no longer a future problem, and we can not make an excuse not to push the burden onto future generations. Last year, the world’s leading climate scientists warned we only have 12 years to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5C and avoid climate breakdown.
Upheaval in our lifestyles is the only way to meet targets and cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. Swapping cars for bikes or electric cars, taking fewer flights, using public transport, ditching gas boilers and heaters at home are some of the changes needed to be made soon. It is believed that renewable energy is expensive. Still, solar power and onshore wind are the cheapest ways of generating electricity, i.e. the energy they produce is less expensive than using nuclear, gas and fossil fuels. Yet, the government are still backing dirty fossil fuels. UK has the most significant fossil fuel subsidies in the EU. They spend about 10.5bn pounds a year supporting dirty fossil fuels. Just imagine how the money could be utilized in better ways to tackle climate change if invested in renewable energies.
Money has the power to improve environmental status since it can finance scientific research. A recent estimate said it would take $4.5 trillion of investment to decarbonize the energy supply in the United States alone. We have to finance clean-energy infrastructure the same way we would finance any other construction project. When states and countries set ambitious renewable energy portfolio targets, it gets headlines. But a target is just a target without an implementation mechanism, and implementation doesn’t happen without finance solutions.
Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our country, and every country in the world, right now.
And no private financial institution thinks it’s their job to solve climate change. We need a climate-focused, a mission-driven financial institution that implements our targets. Some ways through which these targets can be achieved is by taking a challenge.
Recently Jimmy Donaldson, widely known as MrBeast, on achieving 20 million subscribers on YouTube and Mark Rober started a fundraising challenge #TeamTrees to raise 20 million U.S dollars by 2020 to plant 20 million trees. Many YouTubers came forward to support the movement. Few big names donated a large amount of money for the cause too. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, donated 1 million dollars and inspired others to donate too by changing his twitter account name and profile picture. Tobias Lutke, the CEO of Shopify to top Elon Musk donation and keep going the rivalry between them donated one dollar more than his.
We dump our greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at no charge, and that’s the reason why we don’t think about how it affects us. By adding a cost to emitting greenhouse gases, you create an incentive to produce less of them and switch to alternatives. To date, at least 40 countries have priced carbon in some form. Some have done it through the carbon tax.
Increasing fuel economy, insulating buildings are small changes that add up to dramatic reductions in energy use, curbing greenhouse emissions. One way to use our resources more efficiently is to electrify everything- Oil heaters, diesel trucks, gas stoves. Products like electric cars are far more energy-efficient than their gasoline-powered counterparts. However, we need financing, incentives and penalties to push the global economy to do more with less.
We need to invest in innovations that will help us fight climate change. A battery that can store lots of energy for months, a solar panel that’s twice as efficient, or something beyond our imaginations. Many technologies needed to do this are in their infancy. Carbon dioxide removal tactics range from planting trees to scrubbing carbon dioxide straight from the air. The government will need to invest more in CDR technology to improve its effectiveness and bring down costs. Policies like renewable portfolio standards, feed-in tariffs can help drive the deployment of CDR. The biggest thing CDR companies need to do is a price on carbon.
Financing the organizations that are trying to fight Climate Change is important. We need to start contributing towards it because soon there will come a time where there will be a price tag for every item that is now available easily and for free. We will need to pay for clean drinking water and pure fresh air. The savings that we are doing now to visit beautiful destinations, will be waste when there will be nothing left worth seeing. The Maldives, a paradise in Earth, is sinking and will be completely submerged in 30 years. Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, has completely dried to a trickle after the worst drought faced by the country in a century. The Great Barrier Reefs is the largest coral reef system in the world and almost half the living corals have died and may not be able to recover too. Australia is burning up, and around 480 million animals have been killed in just the sate of New South Wales since September 2019. There are many other places like Amazon, the Dead Sea, Venice that will disappear if proper measures are not taken now.
As the clock is ticking, so is our time to save the earth from climate breakdown. We have a deadline, and every minute is important. So make it count and do something productive for the Earth.