People have turned to social media (no doubt one of the biggest social impacts of the internet) to vent and cope with the unbearable heat wave in the United Kingdom, making the statement #hottestdayoftheyear trend worldwide. Reaching a whopping 38.1°C, people visited waterparks, insistently reminded each other to stay hydrated, and plagued cyberspace with “heat wave memes”, which showcased locals in outrageous outfits and Irishmen accepting their genetic failures. “We’re not made for this, ” one wrote, attaching a meme of the iconic Hunger Games gesture. While humorous to an extent, there are more pressing matters to attend to. The heat wave isn’t exclusive to the United Kingdom, as similar effects continue to plague the rest of the world, including the United States. The National Weather Service urged the locals to “take the heat seriously”, as the heat isn’t rising steadily and becoming more and more unbearable just because. Locals also urged fellows to refrain from downplaying the situation, claiming that the heat wave should rightfully be called a “national emergency”. With the death toll rising due to heat strokes, it’s a infuriating and baffling as to why some people devote their time dismissing claims of climate change and global warming. Take US President Donald J. Trump, for instance, denying its existence entirely. Being one of the most influential figures in America, many follow suit. Despite all efforts that continue to challenge its existence — climate change is real, and global warming is happening. Terrifying though it may seem, our time here on Earth may very well be running out, civilization as we know it, that is. Driving people all over the world to come up with #hottestdayoftheyear is no joke.
Before we begin to examine the causes and scientific evidence all pointing to a single truth (climate change and global warming: real), it is integral that we determine what causes climate change and global warming. As we know, greenhouse gases affect the Earth’s energy balance and climate. The sun, our primary source of energy, gives off sunlight that is reflected directly back into space, especially when coming in the direction of reflective surfaces such as clouds and ice. The rest of the sunlight is absorbed by the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. Much of this absorbed energy is re-emitted as heat, and the atmosphere reacts by absorption and re-radiates the heat, and some amount of it escapes to space. Any kind of disturbance to this balance of received and expelled energy will affect the climate. Think of it this way: if all the heat energy emitted from the surface passes through the atmosphere and right into space, the Earth’s average surface temperature will be significantly colder than it is today. The Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere includes carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide. They make the surface much warmer, as they absorb and emit energy in all directions, which includes downwards — they are responsible for keeping the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere warm. Without this greenhouse effect, the life on this planet we enjoy now could not have evolved. Adding more greenhouses to the atmosphere strengthens its purpose, becoming more effective at preventing heat from escaping into space.
However, the balance of this system slowly began to be disrupted as the human race gained footing, which urged expansion, industrialization, and further development. It is no secret that Greenhouse gases emitted by human activities have altered the Earth’s energy balance, and thus its climate. Alteration of land’s nature surfaces, such as deforestation, among others, has also affected the climate. Emission of pollutants has also played a role, as it affects the type and amount of particles in the atmosphere. Scientists have found out that considering the combination of all human and natural factors, the Earth’s climate balance has indeed been altered towards warming — the biggest contributor is CO2. To support their claims, scientists have examined greenhouse gases in the past. An analysis of air trapped inside the ice extracted from Antarctica has shown that the CO2 concentration began to rise exponentially in the 19th century, after having been relatively balanced 10,000 years prior.
To provide further evidence to support the claims, multiple independent teams have estimated the global average surface temperature increase, which obligated them to conduct an intricate analysis of millions of measurements from around the world — this includes ships, land stations, and even satellites. The complications of synthesizing such data was tantamount, but the teams have concluded both separately and unanimously that the global average surface air temperature increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F) since 1900. Although the data show some accelerations and pauses in the trend, the data on last three decades clearly show that these times have been the warmest since 1850. There are also other impacts associated with this warming trend, most of which have become evident in recent years. For one, the Arctic summer sea ice cover has shrunk drastically, and the heat content of the ocean has risen. Researchers have found that the global average sea level has risen by around 20 cm or 8 inches since 1901, which is directly linked to the water from melted glaciers and the gradual increase of ocean water temperature. The effects do not end here, as the warming trend has also been found to affect precipitation — this alters the geographical ranges of plant and animal species, greatly affecting their life cycles. In addition to these already staggering effects, excess from CO2 emissions in the atmosphere is absorbed into the ocean, which changes its chemical composition leading to ocean acidification.
These radical changes are taking place right under our noses, and human activities are justly to be blamed. We are changing the climate, and there is a rigorous analysis of data and evidence that supports this, despite every attempt to disprove it. The global warming situation over the past 50 years cannot be explained as merely effects of natural causes, which greatly proves the immense impact human activities have caused.
In an attempt to battle the successions following climate change and global warming, parties of the UNFCCC reached a landmark agreement on the 12th of December 2015, which they named The Paris Agreement. The agreement calls for measures to combat climate change, as well as investments necessary for sustainable alternatives for fossil fuels. For the first time ever, the Paris Agreement brings all nations into a single cause that consolidates ambitious efforts to bring forth workable solutions to climate change, along with vital methods of adapting to its effects. Enhanced support to assist developing countries is also a huge part of it, and marks a new course to addressing the global climate crisis. Its primary aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, encouraging a collective and collaborative effort to keeping the global temperature rise in this century to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as well as limiting the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C. Moreover, the agreement also wished to intensify the ability of countries to deal with the climate change effects, along with making financial flows stable with low GHG emissions. To reach these ambitious goals, there is a call for appropriate mobilization and provision of financial resources, along with a new technology framework, which calls for support to both developing and vulnerable countries. To measure progress, all Parties are required to report regularly with data on their emissions, along with reports on the progress of their implementation. A global stocktake will also be called upon every 5 years, which was designed to assess collective progress towards achieving the agreement’s purpose. The Paris Agreement opened for signature on the 22nd of April 2016, and by early 2017, a total of 125 Parties have signed into the agreement.
Despite fundamental efforts to thwart the rage of climate change and global warming, the effects are already significant and costly, which not only affects our climate but our health and communities. Unless we immediate action to reduce emissions, the impacts will continue to intensify, and the extent of which can only grow more devastating over time. The extreme heat is already a case, and the staggering expansion of dangerous heat levels over the coming decades cannot be avoided. Rising seas and an increases coastal flooding also pose as threat, and low-lying communities are at risk for flooding, putting human lives at peril. There will also be longer and more destructive wildfire seasons, especially in the west coast of the United States. The wildfire consuming Californian homes this previous summer is just a taste of what is to come. Higher spring and summer temperatures are to be expected, and earlier snowmelts will ensue. While a natural part of the climate system, recent studies postulate that there will be more destructive hurricanes, the destructive power of which have been surging since the 1970s. There are, of course, also costly effects on our health. The rising temperatures give way to an increased air pollution, which results to longer and more intense allergy seasons. There will also be a spread of insect-borne diseases, more frequent bouts of heat waves and heavier rainstorms. A study has also emphasized that the melting of the glaciers means the awakening of previously deadly viruses and bacteria, all of which have been, until recently, in deep slumber. The threats are real, and detrimental not only to the environment but all the living organisms, including us.
On top of nature’s wrath, most of the efforts like the Paris Agreement continue to unravel, too, due to insistent downplaying done by other uninformed parties. Such is the case of Trump, when he decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. He has previously stated that climate change is merely a “hoax”, and problems are merely causes of change in the weather. He claims that trying to take action on global warming would affect the American economy, claiming that he does not wish to be the cause of putting companies out of business. In previous interviews, he claims that the United States has among the “cleanest climates”, a preposterous and grossly uninformed echoed by his staunch, science-denying supporters. Mike Pence postulates that America has the cleanest air and water in the world, and when challenged, he insists that there is progress in the reduction of carbon emissions. To add insult to injury, the Trump administration has removed a quarter of references pointing to climate change from federal government websites, a move that has been happening since 2016. This has severely weakened public access to information, especially to something as vital as climate change and global warming. Clearly, there is unscrupulous political agenda behind such overt obscurantism, in line with the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and the cancellation of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration policy aimed at battling anthropogenic climate change and global warming.
While people remain at disarray and seem to be much more interested in debating, the effects of climate change worsen. A paper published by the Melboune-based Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration claims that man-made climate change will cause the collapse of the world’s ice sheets. This will result to the extinction of over 1 million animal species. The paper claims that other reports are slightly off, as the risk of climate change is much, much worse. Authored by climate research and a former fossil fuel executive, the paper hypothesizes that the current climate crisis is huge and incredibly complex, and there’s a huge chance that society will collapse by 2050. The paper did not hold back with its grim and horrifying description of the future to come. According to the proponents, 35% of the global land area, and 55% of the world’s population will be subjected to more than 20 days of lethal heat circumstances, well beyond the threshold of human survivability. While this happens, floods, droughts, and wildfires will persistently ravage the lands. A third of the world’s land surface will turn into ruins, a howling wilderness of heat. Ecosystems will collapse — the coral reefs will be the first to go, followed by the rainforests and then the Arctic sheets. The destruction will also cause agriculture to diminish, which will promptly result to a billion refugees. Mass shrinking of coastlines, severe drought and famine, and mass movement of refugees will stress even the world’s most powerful nations, including America. As the world collapses, so will civilizations — armed conflicts, even war, is likely.
This catastrophe can still be prevented, and the solution lies in an issue other parties seem to be ignoring still — the acceptance of an inconvenient truth that there is such a thing as climate change. Seeing this as an emergency, and setting to work, is the only way. Because the truth is, the Earth isn’t dying, it’s adapting — for all we know, the Earth could survive another million years. But as a species, we can’t. We’re only humans after all, tiny specks in an otherwise endless galaxy. There is no way of altering what has been done, but if we’re to survive for generations to come, then it’s time to act now.