Climate change is happening right now.
It is real, and the effects of climate change can be seen all around us. Climate change refers to the long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts could occur naturally through variations in the solar cycle; however, since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change. As a result of burning fossil fuels, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.
The climate today
Globally, 2020 was the hottest year on record - tying 2016, the previous record. The top 10 hottest years to have been recorded have all occurred within the 21st Century.
Due to the global Covid-19 lockdowns with more people staying inside the house, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were reduced during the lockdowns. However, overall CO2 concentrations continued to increase. As global warming is related to cumulative emissions, the level of concentration that is already in the atmosphere, and not the current level of emissions. Simultaneously, cumulative emissions determine the degree to which the earth warms from its presence in the atmosphere.
The earth’s temperature has risen over 1.2 degrees Celsius since the 19th century.
“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming.” - Panmao Zhai
Household consumption contributes to 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions, showing that we all have a part to play when it comes to the fight against climate change. This can be achieved by lowering our carbon footprint. Walking instead of driving somewhere that is within walking distance, making use of public transport where it is accessible. Buying only what you need to reduce waste, buying ethically sourced clothes, and avoiding fast fashion. This would reduce the amount of CO2 each individual releases into the atmosphere.
Although we may try to reduce our carbon footprint as individuals, that’s not to say the top 1%, wealthier individuals are also playing a big role in the earth’s temperature rising. The wealthiest 1% generate half of the global aviation industry's carbon emissions, especially so when taking private jets from country to country. A map showing over 140 private jets leaving Los Angeles within 5 hours after the Superbowl game illustrated the environmental impact of the actions of a few wealthy individuals. Highlighting their contribution towards CO2 emissions. “The richest one percent emits more than the poorest 50 percent,” The actions of a few have a greater impact on the earth’s atmosphere than we realise.
It’s not only wealthy individuals that are contributing to greenhouse gases at alarming rates but wealthy countries too. The UK accounts for 3% of the global total, not including overseas emission under colonial rule. The US, Canada, Japan, and Europe make up 12% of the global population today but are responsible for 50% of greenhouse gases released for the past 170 years.
As Greta Thunberg said, "The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty". Not only does climate change contribute to melting ice caps and extreme weather but also water shortages, and droughts in poorer countries. Air pollution and forest fires that destroy the air quality and affect the health of individuals living in that environment. It impacts people who aren’t always the ones heavily contributing to it, which is why big corporations and world leaders need to take responsibility.
So, what can we do?
The fastest way to reduce the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere is to simply not create any more than there already is. By investing in renewable energy sources and changing small habits every day, we can change our lifestyle for the better. Governments and world leaders should lead by example and put their money towards creating a cleaner environment and atmosphere. Driving change across industries and progressing forward by using low carbon-emitting technologies.
If governments, corporations, and individuals work together to try to make an active change to reverse the effects of climate change, sooner rather than later. Then we can all live on a pollution-free earth, where animals and plants and humans can flourish and breathe in clean air. Creating and leaving behind a better world for future generations.