• Felix

The Earth against the World

A reanalysis of the climate change problem

Climate change. 2017

On the 5th of December, 2017, a picture of an emaciated polar bear had been shared to the general public and immediately shocked the world. Ironically, the photographers had initially set out to find opportunities of capturing stunning pictures of the arctic environment. Unfortunately, when the emaciated polar bear had been spotted, no action was taken by the filming team to save the poor animal. The bear in the picture had only days to live. This is what starvation looks like. Its bold and light skeletal structure and slow enervated steps towards looking for the slightest sign of food on the rough dry lands that once used to be glittered with sea-life and water.

Comments were announced all over the world, from climate experts, animal rights activists, academics and etc. The web-post itself had been re-posted to another 15 famous social media pages on the same day. Still, no post was effective enough to save the poor bear’s life. The world was shocked over the picture of one emaciated polar bear, however the truth is multiple pictures of different polar bears, or even arctic animals have been posted on the internet countless times before. If one had simply searched the keywords “Emaciated polar bear” on the internet, one would find more than enough pictures of different starving polar bears. Despite that it is an animal, the thought of a starving polar bear is only the smaller picture.

In fact, animal or human, we are all living on the same planet and subject to the same environmental consequences due to climate change. When we think of starving refugees, or meagre countries damaged by natural disasters, we see just as many pictures of human beings as we see polar bears. As the problem darkens over the years, parts of the world may start to become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels. In fact, the scarcity of economic supply would gradually diminish to the point that aggregate demand stands next to nothing. Decades later, the world might drastically turn into the environmental and economic stance analogous to that of dystopian novels, a world where half of the planet has been engulfed by floods due to the climate and humanity is left to primitively fight over its depleting resources.

An international perspective

When the phrase “Global Warming” is brought up, many different thoughts come to mind. Some may think melting ice caps, or overflowing sea levels, or even extinction of a certain species. However, others may think false information or an unrealistic dilemma. For example, contrasting leaders such as the President of the United States Donald Trump has frequently argued to “Drop Climate Change” from the international list of threats. Moreover, he even addressed it derisively as “That Good Ole’ Global Warming”. Meanwhile, the current President of the Republic of France Emmanuel Macron had contributed as much as he could through investing millions of dollars with foreign countries to promote green technology. He emphasized the importance of this from the statement “Make Our Planet Great Again”. It has been less than a year since Macron took office, and he has already pledged 30 million Euros to climate research according to The Telegraph, UK’s main media page. These contrasting approaches reveals the great disparities between different countries’ environmental agendas and makes us think of what “leadership” means in today’s age.

Nevertheless, most countries have strived to solve the problem only because parts of their regions have already changed severely due to the warming of the planet. Scientists have estimated that by 2030, up to 70 billion US dollars of coastal properties in Florida will be at risk of inundation from rising sea levels of the east coast. Moreover, although it is not entirely accurate to correlate, natural disasters worldwide have been increasing over the years. According to an article published by The Guardian, the number of floods across Europe has more than doubled in just 35 years. In 2016, the world saw its record high of 384 flood disasters according to the UN’s disaster monitoring system UNISDR. “That Good Ole’ Global Warming” may be a problem after all.

The questions today is, “What solution would be the most effective and at the same time feasible to solve today’s climate problems?”, and from this problem we may see that the window of opportunities is quite narrow due to the inflexibility of today’s world. In fact, every year there are several UN meetings that constitutes of over 15 major countries to discuss the current progress on climate change. In 2017, the world met twice in Bonn, Germany. Once in May and again in November to summarize the annual urban development plans and carbon emission records in each country. However, there has still been no decisive solution proposed to answer the dilemma of the Earth’s rising temperature every year.

Possible solutions

So we come to wonder, “How has the world changed so much in the past half century compared to the millions of years that mankind existed?”. The problem has first emerged during the late industrial era. When the discovery that electricity could be used to power things dawned upon the world, humans have invented all sorts of electronic appliances that require using non-renewable energy sources. However great it is, this scientific advance does not come without the necessary costs of environmental damage. The goal of a transition to renewable energy sources is to control the spontaneous increase of greenhouse gas emissions while harvesting enough energy to sustain the modern world’s demands. This change greatly relies on time, as its goal is to adjust humanity energy sources to a slow but clean one.

One of the popular solution used today is the transition from non-renewable to renewable energy sources. The impact that climate change has brought to the world is mainly led by uncontrolled consumption of “dirty” energy resources such as fossil fuels. But this transition is only a smaller part of a larger action known as ‘Sustainable Development’, which is the main target goal of both developing and developed countries. However, the difficulty in managing climate change is that it will not vanish in a matter of years. From scientific research the Earth’s temperature is estimated to increase continuously for decades before it is to stop. The danger of this is how far it will rise and what impacts it will cause to the planet. In order to resolve this dilemma, environmentalists have proposed to adopt ‘Sustainable Development’ plans. But its main problem is that it is not known to be immediate, instead it is a rather deterring effect.

So what would happen if we immediately seized every source of carbon emission today?

If the world had unanimously halted every source that emits carbon and stayed environmentally silent for the time being, it would require at least 40 years for the temperature rise to decelerate. This is known as the temperature rise delay, according to The Conversation’s website. In other words, the planet’s temperature will rise for a minimum of 40 years before it may come to a stop. As concluded by experts in the global research field, the current set of development plans used by the world may only reduce carbon emissions by about 15% by 2030. That said, it really requires a drastic change in order to stop the “Climatic avalanche” of temperature rise. Therefore, the world comes down to two options. If the level of energy consumption can be controlled, then humanity may opt to lessen non-renewable energy resources so that the pace of energy harvest may catch up with usage. If however, consumption level can not be managed and the pace of non-renewable energy usage continues, then the planet would have to cope with higher temperature levels and more environmental disasters until the development pace of sustainable resources has finally caught up with that of energy usage. Will then, the world consider such a change?

#Spotlight #Earth