Over 11,000 scientists have come together from across the globe in a united effort to declare a climate emergency, and have warned of the potential for ‘untold suffering’ that may come if we continue to ignore the state of our planet.
The warning was issued by scientists from the University of Sydney, Australia, Oregon State University and Tufts University in the US and the University of Cape Town in South Africa, backed up by over 11,000 signatories from 153 countries.
With thousands of scientists agreeing on the fact that planet Earth is facing destruction, it is vital that the problem is addressed. 2019 has been the year of climate change awareness with Extinction Rebellion protests sweeping the country and a climate emergency being declared. As more and more people are galvanised by climate action, questions are being asked concerning what can be done. Who is responsible and what can we do ourselves to prevent climate change becoming irreversible?
By now we all know how damaging plastic can be for the environment. In fact, it is the number one cause of beach and ocean pollution, killing marine life, plants and ecosystems. Plastic is an epidemic which must be defeated in order to tackle climate change head on in order to save thousands of species and habitats. The biggest culprit is microplastics which are pieces of plastics less than five millimeters in length commonly found in drinking supplies, bottled water, oceans, lakes and rivers. Whilst also found in the human body, they are less harmful to us than they are to oceans and other water sources as they damage the marine ecosystems. The problem is intensifying as fishing and shipping industries spread.
Poorly regulated incineration of plastic waste not only negatively impacts marine ecosystems, but also human health. In 2019 alone, scientists have estimated that the production and incineration of plastic will release more than 850 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; by 2050 it is estimated this could rise to 2.8 billion tonnes. It has been suggested that a system should be implemented to fine polluters for their impact of their produce on the environment, forcing corporations to be responsible for their impact on climate change.
Whilst it is important that corporations cut down on their plastic use, there are simple ways you can help from home to decrease the global demand for plastic. In England, 35 million water bottles are used every day with over half ending up in landfills, putting more microplastics in the environment. If everyone cut down their use of single use plastic water bottles by investing in a good reusable bottle, the demand for single use plastics will decrease. Other ways to help easily at home include using reusable shopping bags, ditching face wipes and opting for a wooden toothbrush.
Greenhouses gases are also a major culprit, trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing drastic habitat changes to those in colder climates. Greenhouses gases are caused by burning fossil fuels; emitting coal, natural gas and oil; decaying waste in landfills and the process of agricultural and industrial activities. Gases remain in the atmosphere from a few years to thousands of years, causing lasting damage to ecosystems and human health. Greenhouse gases essentially thicken the Earth’s blanket, trapping heat inside.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the average temperature globally has risen by around 1°C, a rapid change as previous temperature changes are thought of have happened over much longer periods of time. The ten hottest years in the UK since 1884 have all happened in the last 17 years whilst globally the 20 warmest years on record have all occurred in the past 22 years.
In order to avoid further dramatic increases to the average surface temperature of planet Earth, it is vital that greenhouse gas emissions are cut and renewable energy sources are implemented. Greenhouse gasses can also be reduced by better land practices, cutting carbon dioxide levels in the air. An easy way to do this would be to reduce beef farming which has a significantly high impact on greenhouse gas emissions globally.
It is estimated that if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the same rate, we could see the average global temperature rise by more than 4°C by 2100. The drastic consequences arising from this would change planet Earth forever. For example, the extinction risk of global warming is formidable with thousands of species thought to be at risk as a result.
Making simple changes at home, while helpful, is unlikely to help stop climate change becoming irreversible. Massive changes are required on the part of global corporations and governments to address the situation that threatens to destroy our only home.
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