Climate Change: What Will Happen if We Don’t Act Now

By  //  November 14, 2021

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WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?

During geological time, the planet’s climate has continually changed, with significant fluctuations in global average temperatures.

This current period of warming, however, is occurring more quickly than any previous one. It has become clear that most of the last century’s warming was caused by humans releasing heat-trapping gases, commonly referred to as greenhouse gases, to power our modern lives.

As a result of burning fossil fuels, agriculture, land use, and other activities, we are contributing to climate change. Over the last 800,000 years, greenhouse gases have reached their highest levels. The rapid rise is a problem because it is changing our climate at a rate that is too fast for living things to adapt to.

Climate change affects not only rising temperatures, but also extreme weather events, rising sea levels, shifting wildlife populations, and more.

WHAT CAUSES CLIMATE CHANGE?

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is largely man-made: climate scientists have reached this conclusion almost unanimously.

The burning of fossil fuels – coal, gas, and oil – has been a significant driver, as it has increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide. Along with other activities like clearing land for agriculture, this is causing the average temperature of our planet to rise. Climate scientists are as certain of the link between greenhouse gases and global warming as they are of the link between smoking and lung cancer.

It is not a recent conclusion. Scientists have studied the data for decades. Global warming first made headlines in the 1980s.

165 nations signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. Since then, they have met annually (called “Conference of the Parties” or COP) with the aim of developing goals and methods to reduce climate change as well as adapt to its effects. 197 countries are currently bound by the UNFCCC.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE?

Climate change is already having an effect, but it will get worse. Global warming has already reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels. Each half degree (or less) of global warming counts.

One should keep in mind that there is no definitive list of the effects of climate change. Heatwaves are likely to occur more frequently and last longer, and extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. Global mean sea level will continue to rise as the oceans continue to warm and acidify. All of this will have, and is already having, a devastating impact on human life.

In October 2018, the world’s leading scientific body for assessing climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released a major report underscoring the urgent need to address climate change. According to the IPCC, we must not exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic global warming. The report highlights the huge differences between 1.5°C and 2°C scenarios. 

IPCC published another report in August 2021 confirming that without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5°C or even 2°C above pre-industrial levels will be unachievable.

There is still time to limit climate change. In its 2021 report, the IPCC predicted that strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could significantly improve air quality and stabilize global temperatures within the next 20 to 30 years.

Therefore, our governments must take immediate action right now to change course. The longer we take to do this, the more we will need to rely on expensive technologies that may harm human rights.

The UN Secretary-General said the report was nothing less than a code red for humanity: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable”. He called on all nations, especially the G20 economies, to join the net zero emissions coalition and to reinforce their commitments on slowing and reversing global warming with credible actions. “Inclusive and green economies, prosperity, cleaner air and better health are possible for all, if we respond to this crisis with solidarity and courage”, he said.

HERE’S WHAT’S AT STAKE IF WE DON’T LIMIT WARMING:

RISING SEA LEVELS – Rising sea levels could impact 1 billion people by 2050

Coral bleaching occurs when changes in water temperature cause algae to leave coral reefs, turning them white and making them more vulnerable to disease and death. 

The Arctic sea ice recedes every summer, though millions of square miles of ocean are still covered by it today. Arctic summers may become a reality as the Arctic warms faster than anywhere else on Earth.

In the absence of action, heat waves will increase in frequency and severity around the world, affecting hundreds of millions—or even billions—of people.

Climate change increases the risk of more frequent and heavier rainfall, snowfall, and other precipitation. When that risk increases, flooding also increases.

As the earth continues to warm, some crucial habitats may no longer be hospitable for certain animals and plants. Depending on their ability to adapt or move, a variety of species are at risk.

WHAT HAPPENS IF WE DO NOTHING TO STOP CLIMATE CHANGE? 

These extreme weather situations that we are experiencing now, which is fueled by unusually strong El Niño patterns spurred on by climate change, are likely to double in the near future, say scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (CoECSS), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CSIRO.

By the end of the century, the planet is likely to see global temperatures rise by 2-4 °C (3-7 °F) if we don’t take further action to combat climate impacts. As a result of this type of warming, the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica may melt catastrophically, flooding most major coastal cities.

We will lose wildlife and their habitat, resulting in mass extinction of species. Superstorms, droughts, and heat waves would become more frequent and more severe, causing major health crises and illness.

Agricultural production would plummet, likely resulting in global food shortages and famine. Global water supplies would disappear, making some regions uninhabitable.

WHO IS IMPACTED THE MOST BY CLIMATE CHANGE?

Climate change is already having an effect, but it will get worse. Global warming has already reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels. Each half degree (or less) of global warming counts.

It is important to remember that no one list of the effects of climate change can be exhaustive. It is very likely that heatwaves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The oceans will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level will continue to rise. All of this will have, and is already starting to have, a devastating impact on human life.

The urgent need to address climate change has become even clearer with the release of a major report in October 2018 by the world’s leading scientific body for the assessment of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC warns that in order to avoid catastrophic global warming, we must not reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – or at very minimum not exceed that. The report sets out the massive differences between the 1.5°C and 2°C scenarios. 

In another report published in August 2021, the IPCC confirmed that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C above pre-industrial levels will be beyond reach.

However, there is still time to limit climate change. In the 2021 report, the IPCC said strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases could quickly improve air quality, and in 20 to 30 years global temperatures could stabilize.

Our governments must therefore take immediate steps right now to change course. The longer we take to do this, the more we will have to rely on costly technologies that could have harmful impacts on human rights.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the report was nothing less than a code red for humanity: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable”. He called on all nations, especially the G20 economies, to join the net zero emissions coalition, and reinforce their promises on slowing and down and reversing global warming with credible concrete steps. “Inclusive and green economies, prosperity, cleaner air and better health are possible for all, if we respond to this crisis with solidarity and courage”, he said.

YOU ARE PART OF THE SOLUTION

You can help combat climate change. Calculate your carbon footprint and take steps to lower it. Your activities might surprise you as to which emit the most greenhouse gases.

Be an active part of climate change movements such as the David Suzuki Foundation which originated from the unique paradigm shift. As good humans, it is our responsibility to take care of the environment and respect it.

More than 17,000 people contacted David Suzuki seeking ways to prevent the threatening environmental disaster.

The initial plan was to promote:

sustainable fishing

agroforestry 

endangered biological species

biopesticide

distribution of sustainability

The David Suzuki Foundation has become Canada’s most respected environmental organization, thanks to its track record of developing solutions to worrisome environmental dilemmas.

We need to use our voices for climate action. Please let your policy makers know that you care about climate change and wish to see them enact policies that address greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts.

Talking to family and friends about climate change is one of the easiest and most important things everyone can do. Having these conversations can seem like a recipe for conflict and hard feelings. The key is to meet people where they are. 

Climate change is largely caused by what you eat, how you power your home and mobile devices, and how you travel. An average US citizen emits 20 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year due primarily to these activities. (This is ten times the emissions from the average Indian person, for example.) Here are a few tips for reducing your carbon footprint:

ELECTRICITY

Consider getting solar panels for your house or researching community solar projects in your area if you own your own home. Make the switch to renewable energy if your utility offers it (most do). This change can have little to no effect on your bills as renewable energy prices drop.

TRANSPORTATION

Ride your bike, carpool, or take public transportation one or more days each week to reduce the fossil fuel impact of your daily commute to work or school

FOOD

Commit to reducing household food waste in your home. Buy only what you need and eat what you buy.

THERE’S STILL TIME

Climate change is not an insurmountable problem. We know what causes it and how to stop it. It will take courage, ambition, and details beyond lofty pronouncements.

Achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is an ambitious goal that will require considerable effort across all sectors of the economy. There isn’t much time left, but if we act now, and act together, we can substantially reduce the rate of global warming, and prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Creating a low carbon economy will also lead to cleaner air, better energy choices, new jobs, and could even save us money. As such, many of the natural solutions we need to adapt to even today’s climate change impacts benefit us all: cleaner air and water, more outdoor recreation and jobs. 

There’s still time. This is the time. Act now.