By Ludovica Martella
This article was also published through Global Fashion Exchange Magazine.
On May 20th 2019, a worrisome report was published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on how the repercussions of climate change might be even greater than expected: with temperatures reaching not +2°C above pre-industrial levels, (the Industrial Revolution is recognized as being the boom of emissions) but +5°C. This news has catastrophic consequences, as a rise in sea level of two meters; yet, there has been little coverage of this on the news, and no emergency meeting was called by the UN…Why?
In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC,) an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, estimated that emissions from fossil fuels would amount to a rise in temperatures of +2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Because of this, the member states of the UN (the “Parties,”) met in Paris in 2015 for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) and committed to a climate action plan, what is commonly referred to as The Paris Agreement. Since then though, technology has improved. “The last estimates were made in 2013. There have been a lot of studies over the last six years which indicate that processes going on in the ice sheets might move parts of the ice sheets off the continent and into the ocean, faster than previously expected” Michael Oppenheimer, Professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and co-author of the report, said on a radio interview with the BBC. In fact, his report focuses on the repercussions that high temperatures will have on the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, which, when melted, would result in higher sea level rises across the world.
What would the consequences of these ice sheets melt look like on land?
As a result of high sea level rise, approximately 1.8 million square kilometers of land would be submerged. Some examples of where this would take place are the Nile Valley in Egypt, some parts of London and Shanghai, Lower Manhattan in New York and an extensive part of Bangladesh. What is most troubling about this Oppenheimer said, is that “about half billion people live on river deltas which are by the coast and which are completely low line, and those people have nowhere to go so this is really a worldwide problem”. This information is major, considering that all climate resolutions that took place from The Paris Agreement until now have focused on a rise of temperature above +2°C and sea level rise of 1 meter above land, not greater. Thanks to the development of new technology, this new report estimated much greater numbers. Therefore, the Parties should revisit their efforts to diminish even more their fossil fuels emissions. “Under any possible emissions scenario, sea level will continue to rise indefinitely, but there is a world of difference between a low emissions scenario, where we are getting rid of fossil fuels as fast as possible, where sea level rises are at a moderate rate so people and society have the chance to adjust, and a rapid emissions scenario where we just don’t care about climate change and we keep burning coal. Over the century the sea level rise could get into the bold part as this report shows, of 2 meters or so” Oppenheimer suggested. “Let’s say you are going to get on an airplane knowing that it had a 10 percent of crashing. You wouldn’t get on it.”
Responsibilities and solutions
The responsibility of cutting emissions doesn’t only apply to the world’s biggest emitters of CO2 such as China, the United States and India, but to all countries, as Oppenheimer confirmed in the same interview. The richer countries in the world, what is known as the Global North, and the poorest countries, the Global South (you may have guessed it, their names are given to them also according to their position to the Equator) both have responsibilities, but different ones. As agreed in COP21, the Global North should help finance the development of the Global South: but with green, renewable energy. Too optimistic you think? At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how the Earth’s temperature started to rise around the Industrial Revolution, one of the greatest innovation peaks in history. Well, the Industrial Revolution was performed by the richer countries, the Global North. The Global South, on the other hand, stayed behind in development, but still suffered the most from climate change than their richer counterparts. Therefore, it is almost a moral command that the richer countries pioneer in support of climate efforts. Finally, it is the responsibility of the press to bring to people’s attention what technical reports entail, such as the groundbreaking one mentioned in this article, so that the people would be aware and demand for better climate policies to their respective governments.
Reflections of a citizen
As I do whenever I have some extra time and want to feed my soul, I go take a walk to the park. (As humans, our connection to nature is nurturing and greater than what most of us remember.) I saw turtle families bathing in the sun, other unbothered, swimming. I was just doing the same thing (a part from the swimming part, unfortunately,) just as many other people. Then I thought about those people in power. The lobbyists behind the oil industry, people who have become incredibly rich from disrupting the environment. Why don’t they give back by investing in cleaner energy? Don’t they feel a sense of responsibility? Of giving back to the Earth that made them rich? Under the moderate heat of the first nice days of spring, I imagined how it would feel to be outside by the end of the century. I feel truly sorry for what kind of future we are leaving to the future generations. This is something that I feel deeply within myself, but of which I couldn’t have learned without the help of informational resources and education. That is exactly why I felt the urge to write a piece about this, and in general, it is the reason why I decided to start a blog in the first place.
How can you help?
What I decide to write about is not supposed to scare, but to inform and help brainstorm towards a better management of our world and its resources and how we decide to care for one another. These problems can feel less hopeless if we work collectively on them. You can help by sharing this article or the resources within, with friends and family, at your job, etc. No act will go unnoticed. Also, here there is a link to 10 ways you can personally reduce your greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) — yes, single humans also contribute to climate change, but far less than the industrial sector. Nevertheless, it is important to limit our footprint. Learn how here.
Some other sources that covered this topic: