Climate Change: Should we take it seriously?
For over 70 years, Pete Davis has lived in the same house his parents built on Kangaroo Island, off the southern coast of Australia. The volunteer firefighter lived peacefully off the land with his two sons Ben and Brenton. On January 3rd, 2020, the two boys were casually moving sheep when a blaze of fire erupted around them in an instant. Luckily, Pete and his sons were prepared and quickly took shelter in their home while the earth was being scorched just meters away. After only a few moments the blaze had passed and they believed they were finally safe. However their relief was cut short when they realized their roof had caught fire. Davis was forced to grab everything he could carry and evacuate alongside the boys while his childhood home, with generations of memories, was slowly consumed. This is just one account of the 96,000 who were affected by the Australian wildfires that were a result of climate change.
For the last 30 years, it has been apparent that climate change has become a significant global issue that affects both people and animals. But the question lies, how serious should we take this issue?
According to an article by Rachel Warren and Sally Brown, it is essential that climate change should be taken seriously. In the article they go into great detail of the many effects that climate change could have if we don’t take action. Warren and Brown mention a report by a “UN body tasked with relaying the science of climate breakdown to the world” expressing how important it is for the earth to stay below 1.5℃. In the 2015 Paris agreement, Governments of the world agreed to limit the earth’s temperature below 2℃. However Warren and Brown explain that “many country-level commitment and action are nowhere near enough to limit to 2℃, let alone 1.5℃.” This statement was confirmed by the executive director of United Nations Environment Program, Inger Anderson, who stated “Five years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the world is still far from meeting its climate goals,” according to USA Today.
What could we be facing
Warren and Brown also claim that global warming has been accelerating. “The planet has warmed by 1.1°C since 1850–79, but 0.2°C of this warming happened between 2011 and 2015 alone.” They claim the last four year have been the warmest in global history. This claim was supported by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Warren and Brown then go on to explain how the effects of climate change will worsen exponentially when the global temperature reaches 1.5℃ and 2℃. “At 1.5°C of warming, about one in twenty insect and vertebrate species will disappear from half of the area they currently inhabit, as will around one in ten plants. At 2°C, this proportion doubles for plants and vertebrates. For insects, it triples.” They then go on to explain that we could lose 70% and 90% of coral reef which could be catastrophic for millions of ocean creatures and people’s livelihood these ecosystems support. At 2°C 99% of reefs could disappear. At that temperature, it could mean the “extinction of thousands of species.”
An Illegitimate issue
In an article by Tom Chivers, a science editor at a media outlet Unherd, he expresses his belief that climate change will not have the catastrophic consequences that are portrayed in the media. In the article he first turned his attention to the 2018 IPCC Report on climate change. The IPCC is an intergovernmental organization formed by the UN’s environmental program. According to IPCC, their goal is to “provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.” Chivers says the IPCC report is the standard science that everyone references when they are addressing the effects of climate change. Although the IPCC is regarded as a reliable source, there’s no concrete evidence supporting this claim that it is the general standard.
The reason Chivers mentioned the IPCC report was to highlight one of the data points that was released in the 2018 report. It reports that between 2030 and 2050, there will be around 250,000 excess deaths per year as a result of climate change. Chivers explains that this amount of deaths is not a worrisome number. He then mentions a report by The Climate Lab, a collaboration between climate experts from various institutes including the universities of California and Chicago. The report predicts that by the year 2100, the excess deaths will have risen to about 1.5 million a year. Chivers puts this number into “perspective” by comparing it to the number of deaths that are accumulated by other global issues.
“For comparison, diabetes directly causes about 1.6 million deaths a year, according to the WHO. Obesity kills about 2.8 million. Road traffic accidents kill about 1.25 million. Smoking, eight million. That’s roughly the sort of magnitude of problem that we’re dealing with.”
Statistically these claims are accurate, however I think it’s important to note that annual deaths from climate change and annual deaths from the other societal issues do not have a direct correlation to each other. Another point that he mentions is that undeveloped countries are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than rich countries. This statement is supported by both the London School of Economics (LSE) and the World Bank. He believes that we should be focusing our efforts on trying to build these countries up for the impacts of climate change approaching in the near future.
Chivers makes some great points in his article that puts things into a perspective that is not usually portrayed on the topic of climate change. I especially agree with the idea to start attempting to build the infrastructure of developing countries. However I do feel that some of his claims that undermine the annual deaths of people are dangerous. Ideas like these justify not taking the problem seriously. I also believe that these points lack empathy for people. I think that we need to shy away from counting people’s lives as just statistics that will inevitably parish. It’s true that 1.5 million deaths is a relatively average number compared to other global issues, but if there’s something that can be done then we should attempt to do it. It’s also important to note that eventually there will be only 1.5 million Casualties a year, but billions of people and animals will be impacted by the effects of climate change according to sources like WHO and the World Bank. I think that in addition to building up smaller countries, we should also build more government funded alternative energy plants, add more restrictions to the amount of carbon emissions that a company can release, and add more fuel efficiency policies for new cars and new trucks. With plans like these, and the addition of everyone making small lifestyle changes, I truly believe that we can overcome this global crisis.