A few degrees don’t matter!
By Maya Parmar
The temperature on earth has risen by 1.5 degrees since 1880. If this rises further by 0.5 degrees to 2 degrees, we will have passed the critical threshold of being able to reverse the effects of climate change. There is a 50% risk of global temperatures increasing by 5 degrees by 2100 (Urry, 2009). This tipping point is so close that it should be a major red flag to every leading superpower, but it is not.
The idea of ‘climate change denial’ has come to light more so in recent years, with many in positions of power now expressing their views on how climate change is a ‘hoax’ or an ‘unnecessary mass hysteria’. One of the best known climate change deniers is the American president Donald Trump. This proves a massive issue to mitigating or reversing the effects of climate change due to the fact that although the US account for just 5% of the global population, they consume 1/4 of the world’s energy and produce almost 1/4 of carbon emissions (Nye, 1999). There is only so much that the rest of the world can do, if a major source of climate change cannot be tackled. ‘Climate change begets climate change’ (Monbiot, 2007). Arguably, modern capitalist and highly industrialised consumer societies are driving climate change in their competition to be the best and the richest. To the leading powers of the US and most of the rest of the Western capitalist world, a few degrees don’t matter.
Climate change is inseparable from human social, economic and technological organisations. This is largely due to the relationship between climate change and consumer capitalism. An analysis of capitalist societies from the perspective of social scientists has proved very useful in reducing the amount of climate change deniers, and enabling more proactive steps in mitigating and reducing the effects of human led climate change (Urry, 2009).
We have entered into the ‘anthropocene’; a new human epoch in which the earth’s natural cycles have become altered by the impact of human activity. Human activity has changed the earth entirely, and people are still suggesting that a few degrees don’t matter, but they do:
Climate change has adverse and rapid effects on our planet and on the way that we live our lives on it. For decades now, climate scientists have shown the vast array of impacts that climate change has had, with some even referring to it as ‘climate chaos’ to demonstrate the severity of these impacts. Current effects of climate change include an increase in extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes and droughts; as well as the increase in water and food insecurity that is exacerbated by these events and also by the increasing desertification of land. The warming of earth’s temperature is causing the polar ice caps to melt, which in turn leads to rising sea levels and a loss of habitat for many animals that need these ice caps to live, such as polar bears. Following this, we are seeing the depletion of species who are struggling to live in quickly changing environments. Rising sea temperatures and increasing air and water pollution are causing ocean acidification, which in turn is killing corals, fish and sea mammals. The World Health Organisation have already estimated that even as early as the year 2000, 150,000 annual deaths were caused by climate change.
1.5 degrees do matter.
It is important to look to the future and assess what further issues could occur when discussing the severity of climate change to emphasise the need for action. Future effects of climate change include the extinction of various species who cannot adapt to new environments quick enough, but also the migration of species as climatic zones shift northwards causing potential issues for humans and animals. Changing temperatures, and therefore rainfall will have drastic impacts on the livelihoods of people who rely on crop growing to support themselves. Changes to temperature will make some land infertile, while changes in rainfall can water-log the ground or alternatively could lead to desertification. The effects of climate change are likely to lead to economic downturns as the scarcity of materials and products will drive up the prices. In turn, this could very easily lead to resource wars, especially in areas of food and water scarcity. The future of climate change looks bleak, unless we are willing to do something to mitigate the effects.
2, or maybe 5, degrees do matter.
A few degrees do matter.
- Monbiot, G. (2007) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/dec/11/comment.greenpolitics
- Nye, DE (1999) Path insistence: Comparing European and American attitudes toward energy. Journal of International Affairs 53(1): 129–148.
- Urry, J. (2009). Sociology and Climate Change. The Sociological Review, 57(2_suppl), 84–100.