The Climate Crisis: A Planet on the Brink

The likes of climate change and global warming can often be a difficult topic to digest, especially given the sensitive nature of the discussion. Everyone’s heard of it, but many people choose to turn a blind eye to the reality that no longer seems like such a distant threat. While the see no evil, hear no evil approach has offered security and comfort to many-a-sceptics over recent decades, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to bury one’s head in the sand. A mere flick through the television or scroll through social media will most likely be met by one of many recent natural disasters and ecological catastrophes making headlines all around the world.

The Beginning of the End? 

The sights of wildfires, flash flooding, tsunamis and earthquakes carry with them a sense of dissociation and fictionality, that is, until they’re seen from outside one’s own window as opposed to a digital display. While once the role of pioneering scientists and activists to turn the tide of public opinion, the Earth has now taken the dominant role in emphasising this change for itself.

The human race has stripped the ship on which it sails of the planks required to float, only this vessel carries with it all living things on Earth, and many compartments are irreversibly flooded, with many quarters that cannot be bailed. This piece aims to observe the effects of human-induced climate change, providing insight and perspective as to how severe the current situation really is, and whether our collective attempts at combating these changes are indeed substantial enough.

The Advent of Human-Induced Climate Change 

The mid 18th century saw the dawn of the industrial revolution, ushering in a new age of human expansion and societal shifts, the likes of which had never been seen before. This phenomenal increase in industrial capacity birthed an era of vast human expansion, with urban centres now outnumbering rural areas in population for the first time in history, with a seemingly endless exodus of workers migrating inland, leaving their agricultural lives behind for newly found industrial occupations.

The utilisation of crude oil and natural gasses proved essential throughout the theatres of the First & Second World Wars, and ultimately defined the course of human energy consumption thereafter. It was during this era that an ever-increasing number of nations discovered they were sitting over a proverbial sea of black gold. The likes of Venezuela, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia and Canada (to name but a few) found themselves reaping the benefits of this international oil rush seemingly overnight. What followed was the tapping of vast oil deposits all around the globe.

Fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal contain carbon dioxide that has laid dormant in the ground for thousands of years. Following extraction, the burning of these fuels combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make CO2, a greenhouse gas that rises into the atmosphere where it may remain for hundreds of years. In 2019 alone, it’s estimated that 36.44 billion tonnes of CO2 were released into the atmosphere

For perspective, that equates to more than the total mass of 2,880,632,411 London double-decker busses being released into the atmosphere in a single year. Soberingly, this figure doesn’t factor in the release of other greenhouse gasses such as methane which poses an even greater threat than that of CO2, with a potency up to 28 times stronger, industrial levels of livestock cultivation and damaging agricultural practices are largely to blame.  

The Impact of Agricultural Practices on Climate Change

Albeit, some agricultural practices are more damaging than others, namely the likes of deforestation. Given the unprecedented quantities of CO2 that are dumped into the proverbial landfill that is our atmosphere, you might be forgiven for thinking that we should protect, even enhance the one prominent tool at our disposal needed to mitigate the atmospheric onslaught ushered by unmitigated industrial activity? That tool being the many rainforests and treescapes that dwindle by the day.

Well, actions speak louder than words, and human actions speak of anything other than planetary compassion. Staggeringly, more than 200,000-acres of rainforest are burned daily, totalling to 150 acres lost every minute of every day, with an approximate 78 million acres lost on average each year. More than 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest is already gone, with continued, hastened destruction threatening to claim what’s left in the matter of just a few generations. As with all of the world’s resources, the rainforests are finite, and as the Amazon is victim to a loss of approximately 20,000 square miles per year, the clock is ticking on borrowed time.

Too Little Too Late?

Is it too late? Well, that depends. If hypothetically humans ceased all industrial activity and stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, the rise in global temperatures would begin to flatten within a few years. Temperatures would then plateau, but would remain predominantly elevated for many centuries to come. Essentially, if mankind heeded the writing on the wall and committed to making drastic long term behavioural changes throughout all sectors of society, then, in due course, the climate would begin to cool and the Earth begin to heal. However benevolent, this outcome seems unlikely at best, as the makeup of the industrialised world, with all its dependencies, infrastructural needs and vices lie woefully unprepared for such radical and abrupt change.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Human advancements in green, renewable and sustainable energy sources have accelerated at unprecedented levels over recent decades, with substantial progress in the fields of solar, wind, hydroelectric, tidal, biomass and geothermal energy production that at least provide some semblance of hope that alternative options are available, and the tools required to combat climate change exist in more realms than just the hypothetical.

“The ultimate fight against climate change is one more psychological than material, as with all the wind farms, hydroelectric dams and energy saving light bulbs one could fashion, such efforts would not in fact make a notable difference unless our perspective of the world and conscious interactions with it succumb to the relevant changes.”

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