Climate change: should we be worried about the future?

by | 20 November 2020 | Environment, Sherwood

In 2018 the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we only have 12 years to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. To put it simply, those impacts could be irreversible by 2030.
The end of 2020 is now only two months away and almost nothing has changed regarding our release of greenhouse gas emissions. Global carbon pollution must be cut in half in the next 10 years for us to avoid catastrophic, irreversible damage to our planet, yet we’re going in the opposite direction and that is terrifying.
Emissions from fossil fuels grew 1.7% in 2017, 2.7% in 2018 and the estimate for 2019 is a growth of 1.3%. This growth is at odds with the deep cuts urgently needed to respond to the climate emergency.
One of the impacts is that the long-term temperature trend is an upward one. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) 2018 IPCC report stated that 20 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the last 22 years. The years 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 had the highest temperatures since 1880.
This means that one million species are at risk of extinction by climate change. Scientists estimate dozens of species of plants and animals currently go extinct each day —nearly 1,000 times the natural rate. By 2050, 30% to 50% of the total species on Earth will have disappeared.
The impacts to human health are much scarier. According to a 2018 study, rising temperatures coupled with growing numbers of people in cities and an increasing elderly population have increased the number of heat-related deaths. But hyperthermia is not the only risk climate change brings to human life. Higher temperatures worsen air quality, negatively affect crop production, increase the spread of infectious diseases and threaten freshwater deposits.
A warming world also increases the intensity of natural disasters. Instances of wildfires burn areas and intensity of fires have increased. From 1st January through to 27th September 2020 a total of 6,587 wildfires ripped through California and claimed more than 2,275,559 acres. This is an increase of over 2,000% on 2019. Hurricanes are reaching new extremes, too. The frequency of high intensity hurricanes — ranked as categories four and five — has increased over the last 30 years. It has become immensely more difficult to escape these storms unscathed, and it will only get harder in the future.
The world has been aware of climate change since the 1988. Countries contributing most to global emissions have the best chance of curbing climate change, but leaders are doing little to address it. The United States, for example, is the second leading emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the leading emitter per capita. Still, US President Donald Trump has confirmed plans to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. The US, unfortunately, is not the only country protecting the fossil fuel industry and failing to follow through on policies that will actually help the environment. The United Kingdom, while an ambitious global leader in climate change policy, is reducing its targets for cutting emissions.
However, we’re not helplessly in the hands of world leaders. We can actively choose to change the ending of our story. Younger generations are taking matters into their own hands and in 2019 went on strike for the climate.
It can feel incredibly overwhelming and it’s so easy to get caught up in a panic that no matter what we do isn’t enough. Watch out for our future articles on how we as individuals can help reduce our carbon footprint and fight against climate change.
For more information about Sherwood Forest Friends of the Earth, we’re on Facebook: Sherwood Forest FoE, or you can email: sffofe@btinternet.com.
Pauline Meechan
Sherwood Forest Friends of the Earth