The Naked Truth: What happens if our planet warms up?
The terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ have been common vocabulary for a good few decades now and all planet-protectors like us, know it is a very real threat. Sometimes it can be difficult to visualise or comprehend how a seemingly minor rise in global temperatures can cause truly catastrophic effects.
This Naked Truth brings clarity to the crisis.
You’ve probably heard talk about the Paris Climate Change Agreement. This happened in 2015 and gained a united front to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C this century. The real aim is actually to keep this rise below 1.5°C. But why?
Our carbon emissions are causing the planet to heat up. Higher temperatures means polar ice thaws at an even more rapid rate. This will naturally lead to rising sea levels, which will eventually wipe out entire communities that live near the sea and displace thousands of people all over the world. It’s not just coastlines that will see the rise though, rivers will also rise and in the UK river flooding could grow by up to 60 times.
The temperature rise will also create more extreme weather. Rains will produce more flooding and mud slides. Hurricanes and strong winds will wreak havoc over the land and help spread wildfires, which will be more frequent due to the droughts and heat waves. US wildfires already burn twice as much land per year as they did in the 1970s and scientists have told us to expect this to continue to worsen.
Wildfires also pose a real threat to our attempts to slow down climate change. Burning trees releases an incredible amount of carbon and some wildfires in Indonesia and Brazil have released more carbon in a single event, than the entire annual emissions of the US, including coal burning and all the emissions from every car, truck and airplane.
Our oceans are already under threat from plastic pollution, but as the sea temperatures rise, our coral reefs will to continue to die and likely collapse. As coral dies completely, this brings huge instability to marine life and the vast numbers of people who rely on them for food and livelihood.
The effects to our food chain don't stop there either. Large swathes of the planet will become too hot to grow anything and in other areas rains may bog the ground so much as to be unusable. This leaves global crops yields at risk of steep decline and a real risk of food shortages for both cattle and humans in a world where populations keep rising.
Scientists are in debate about how much of all this is inevitable. But what’s agreed upon, is that if the planet warms by more than 2°C, we could enter a free-fall where we will be unable to prevent a continual rise in temperatures.
Keeping the rise in temperature below 1.5°C instead of 2°C will mean 100 million fewer people will lose their homes to rising water levels. It will also have a 50% reduction in the number of people who will experience water scarcity – which could be as many as 400 million.
To put things in perspective, if the earth rises by 4-5°C, then the planet could become uninhabitable. Sadly, the BBC reported that leaked documents show that we are set to sail past the 1.5°C rise by 2040.
But there is hope…
“The fight is, definitively, not yet lost” writes David Wallace-Wells, author of Uninhabitable Earth. Although it’s clear there is a lot of very challenging work ahead.
A report showed that around half of British emissions come from inefficiency – wasted materials, food and clothing. There are some very real steps we can take, and encourage the masses to. Reduce, reuse and recycling plays a very big part in cutting down waste and saves us money as well as our children’s future. The latest BBC documentary War on Plastic spotlights just that.
The UK has joined 18 other nations in the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, a global organisation working to get the planet to a net-zero greenhouse gases as soon as is possible.
Plenty of esteemed environmentalists also say we can stay below 1.5°C without industrial means or extreme reforestation. Hannah Mowatt from Fern told the BBC, “If we have very rapid emissions reductions and couple that with massive scaling up of restoration of land and changes in our food system to reduce meat consumption, we can get to 1.5°C in a way that creates lots of wellbeing for people." It’s a world of cleaner air, lower levels of obesity, and most importantly, under the 1.5°C goal.
We’re at a very critical point in time, but we need to act now. We’ve been reliant on single use plastics, convenience and comfort for far too long. Change is a very real possibility and with some of the greatest minds on the planet working to achieve it, we should give every effort to do our bit.
Creating a better Tomorrow, Today 💚🌍