Since the late 19th century, scientists have argued that man-made greenhouse gases could influence the climate of the planet. Over more than one hundred years, the evidence has mounted up insurmountably. It is now the unanimous view of the scientific community that climate change is happening and is caused by humankind.
For many years and decades, international organisations have warned that if we don’t act now, it will soon be too late to stop irreversable damage to the planet and to stop the effects of climate change. Yet these warnings have largely fallen of deaf ears among the leaders of the most powerful nations.
Inaction over so long has now already led to a degree of warming since the Industrial Revolution, with the UN warning that there is only a decade to stop the planet from warming to 1.5C, with a two degree rise being catastophic for ecosystems and citizens across the world.
Despite this, some of the world’s most influential powers, the ones with a power to make a real difference to slow or stop this, are either reluctant to or outright deny that the threat exists.
In the United States, President Trump actively denies climate change with childlike stupidity, and is going out of his way to reverse policies on renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions. In Brazil, newly elected president Jair Bolsonaro has reneged on plans to host next year’s UN Climate Change Conference, with fears that his administration will quickly increase the rate of deforestation in the Amazon. And in China, cut-price home insulation has been using CFC-11, a banned chemical doing significant damage to the ozone layer.
It would seem, without the drive from the major powers to tackle the issue, and some even making decisions that will hasten the effects of climate change, that the fight to stop global warming has been lost. It is now no longer a reasonable possibility to stop the planet from heading into devastating consequences from increased temperatures.
If we reach two degrees of warming, which seems incredibly likely given CO2 emissions are again on the rise, we would see almost all coral reefs at risk of coral bleaching, wheat production in tropical regions down 16% and risks causing unstoppable melting of glaciers in Greenland and West Antarctica. 37% of the world’s population will suffer from extreme heatwaves, water scarcity would affect 411 million people worldwide, particularly in the Mediterranean and we would also see water levels rise by at least half a metre in this century and almost five metres in the long-term. Such a rise would hit up to 280 million people worldwide, especially significant for small island nations and low-lying areas such as New Orleans, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Shanghai before 2100. And we are woefully short of even keeping to this ‘target’.
Given that the world has continually fallen behind on targets for curbing emissions, it is now time to spend less time focusing on how to stop climate change and more on how to mitigate against the effects of it. Improving wildfire management, restoring wetlands to counter the effects of flooding and developing water-saving strategies to reduce consumption are essential in the decades going forward and cannot be an afterthought.
If we don’t act to protect people from the effects of flooding, more extreme weather and water scarcity in the very near future, it will be too late and will cause not only displacement and conflict but death too. Leave it any longer and we will feel the effects not in a couple generations time, but in this one.