Updated: Feb 17
1. Climate change is a future problem
Climate change is consistently spoken about as a problem of tomorrow. The reality is though that we only need to look at some extreme weather events around the world to realise the effects are happening now. For example, Australia experienced some of its worst bushfires in history at the start of 2020, the wildfires in California burned over one million acres of land in less than two weeks in August 2020 and the UK experienced temperatures above 34°C for six days straight for the first time since the 1960s.
Frequent and more drastic weather events like these are a direct effect of climate change. The rate at which we’re experiencing these weather events are rapidly increasing, which is completely unnatural. The IPCC warns, “net annual costs of climate change will increase over time” unless climate action is taken immediately.
2. The climate has always changed
Rapid and unnatural patterns in the climate are predominantly caused by human activity i.e. burning fossil fuels, mass waste production and deforestation. This is unlike a naturally evolving climate, because increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere caused by humans is evoking extreme changes in the climate in the space of just decades. These changes would naturally take over hundreds of thousands of years to occur.
The climate system is extremely sensitive to changes in the earth’s radiation budget. This essentially means that any change to the radiation budget can have a serious impact on the atmosphere’s temperature and effectively the climate. Increasing man-made greenhouse gases is one example that likely will inflict drastic changes on the earth’s climate- a Nature article revealed a warming of 2.2 to 4.8°C per doubling of atmospheric CO2.
3. Animals will adapt to climate change
Source: Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Endangered_arctic_-_starving_polar_bear.jpg
Climate change is so pervasive and rapid that animals and plants cannot adjust. Typically animals migrate in order to adjust to changing seasons and temperatures, however as climate change is happening too quickly, it’s simply not possible to keep up- animals and plants would have to move faster than 1,000 meters per year to stay within their climate zone.
Nothing compares to the threat that climate change poses to habitat destruction. One-third of plant and animal species at risk of extinction in the next 50 years (University of Arizona, 2020) and according to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), 60% of mammal, birds, fish, reptile and amphibian populations have declined in just over 40 years. These statistics stem from overexploitation and agriculture loss, driven by continually increasing human consumption. Natural systems like ecosystems are inherent to our survival and require safeguarding for the future of humanity.
4. A few degrees won’t cause harm
A 1.5°C increase in warming will have extreme consequences on the world- 13.8% of the earth’s population will be exposed to severe heatwaves every 5 years. More frequent floods and droughts will affect populations and agriculture and rising sea levels are going to result in uninhabitable regions around the world. 1.5°C may seem like an insignificant increase, but the evidence shows that the global effects are set to be profound.
Source: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio, Key and Title by uploader (Eric Fisk) - https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/maps/index_v4.html
The climate feedback loop explains a vicious cycle that is rapidly accelerating climate change. Climate feedback loops are “processes that can either amplify or diminish the effects of climate forcing”. Positive feedback increases initial warming, whereas negative feedback reduces initial warming. One of the most powerful examples of positive feedback is decreasing ice coverage in the Arctic. A warmer atmosphere causes ice to melt more quickly, which means the oceans are absorbing more heat due to lack of white, reflective ice and in turn causes even more ice to melt. See where the vicious cycle comes in?
The NOAA reported that “since 1979, ice extent has reduced by 40%”. What’s more, the Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice free in mid summer by mid century. Melting sea ice has major global implications, leading to overall global warming as seas warm up, which further supports the need to keep global warming to 1.5°C.
5. The damage is done, nothing can be done now
Source: Decarbonisation Futures: Solutions, actions and benchmarks for a net zero emissions Australia - ClimateWorks
It’s true that it is now too late to completely undo the effects of climate change, however that’s not to say that there isn’t still time to prevent further warming and catastrophe. Reducing CO2 emissions sooner rather than later means reducing man-made implications on the climate and therefore, preventing further warming. According to ClimateWorks, Australia for example still has an opportunity to forge a path to net zero in keeping with the Paris Climate Agreement goal. Their research Decarbonisation Futures demonstrate that scenarios limiting global temperature rise for both 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees are achievable before 2050 with strong action by every level of government, business and individuals to support technology development, demonstration and deployment.