Understanding climate change and our collective responsibility to save our planet
We face the greatest challenge that we have ever known in human history. The World is getting hotter and if we don’t put a stop to this, then we will soon face run-away climate change that we can no longer stop. The results will be increasingly catastrophic.
In the UK we aren’t facing the worst of the effects but we soon will. Our more temperate climate won’t remain so unless we all face up to the reality of our changing World. Time is running out to act.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the average global temperature has risen by 1.1 degrees Celcius. This may not sound like much. However, the extreme weather events which we are already seeing across our World are testament to the huge impact this modest sounding rise in global temperature is already causing.
Sea ice reflects sunlight. Sea ice melted by global warming causes more blue sea which absorbs more of the sun’s heat, in turn causing more warming. (Ice however reflects it back into space.)
More ice melts during the Artic Polar summer than ever before in the history of modern humans.
This creates warm air, which pushes the cold air further south, away from the Artic. The hotter air around the Equator has nowhere to go but further north, displacing some of the colder air coming down. This creates a zigzag of hotter and colder air around the Equator, reaching up to the Northern Hemisphere.
This results in a disrupted jet stream. The jet stream is a circular wind which blows in an anti-clockwise direction around the North Pole.
It relies on a temperature contrast created by colder air from the north of the jet stream meeting warmer air from the south. As sea ice melts, the Polar Regions warm more quickly than any other part of the World, resulting in a weakening and slowing of the jet stream. This creates ‘blocking’ weather events, which lies behind the extended periods of constant weather spells, including extreme weather events.
This is increasingly spelling disaster for our planet, unless we work together to create fundamental lifestyle change and a reimagining of the World we share.
The heat will become more intense, wildfires lengthier and more destructive. Floods will get increasingly more extreme.
A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture which means that when rain falls it will be much heavier. Conversely, times of drought will be more prolonged and when it does rain following drought, scorched earth will be less able to absorb much needed rain.
So where do we come in and how do we save this shared World of ours?
Our modern World has been shaped by consumerism. It can feel as if we have been but mere pawns in the quest of the rich to accrue more wealth. Before the cost-of-living crisis many people were made to feel wealthier by cheap disposable imports – fashion, tech etc. – but just consider how many people can comfortably afford their own home, how many young people will be stuck in an endless cycle of repaying student debt they can’t afford.
We haven’t needed all the ‘perks’ we’ve had in our World. These ‘cheap’ purchases add up and drain our collective wealth. If we could revisit an earlier time, we could rediscover the joy of purchasing something longed for and the connection with treasured items and more importantly, with one another.
We have lost much of what matters. Many of our wider social connections have been lost. Our sense of community has been eroded and shaped by the endless competition that we find ourselves in. Who can be the best looking, have the largest house, most fashionable vehicle, best holiday...
Yet more than ever we need community. We can’t tackle climate change in isolation. We can’t make demands of our governments, all whilst doing nothing ourselves. There is ZERO way that we can save our planet unless we all implement changes in our own lives and urge others to do the same.
We have so much collective power and yet our modern-day consumerist society has made us reliant on a system which actively disempowers us by the polarising nature of consumerist values.
We can be healthier, happier, have better social connections, a greater sense of personal worth, belonging and improved financial resilience if we strip away the extraneous from our lives. We can take creative ownership over our decision-making and self-expression.
This isn’t intended as some liberal-minded rant. The thoughts laid out here stem from an increasing realisation of what has gone wrong and how we find ourselves at this point in time. We have ended up mostly feeling helpless in the face of a threat that seems too enormous to tackle.
Let’s say however, that we flip the commonly held narrative which would have us believe that we are all helpless, that only the system we rely upon can help us...because it can’t. The wealthy who are hording huge swathes of our collective wealth aren’t going to ask us to consume less or renounce the excessive use of fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, the fallacy of green energy being able to replace fossil fuels is just that, a fallacy.
Coking coal is used to create stainless steel: a major component in wind turbines. These will need replacing approximately every 20 years. Rare earth minerals, such as the lithium used in electric cars and solar panels need extracting from the earth using, you guessed it, more fossil fuels.
Green energy is mostly better than 100% fossil fuel derived energy. There is however a strong element of green washing in making people believe that we can have a straight swap and continue just as we were. It’s not going to happen. We’re back to that word ‘fallacy’.
We are living beyond planetary boundaries. Our planet can no longer support our excess. It never really could.
We can decide our collective fate in a way which gives hope to our future and envisages better. WE CAN SAVE OUR PLANET. However, for this to happen we all must face up to the REALITY of our situation. We can’t kid ourselves it’s business as usual. It’s not.
We need to wean off our over-reliance on fossil fuel.
We must be custodians of the Earth. We need to do better
Read on below to to find out how...
So, let’s look at the average UK citizens’ carbon footprint* and then contrast this with what it needs to be. Presently it stand at nearly 13 tonnes per person. See the chart below from Lancaster University.
The average global carbon footprint needs to drop to under 2 tonnes per person! To achieve this there will be no substitute for government intervention. However, any infrastructural steps they take can only make enough of a difference if we match these with committed lifestyle change.
We can either be intimidated and scared by the magnitude of change required or we can embrace it! We can see this our chance to reimagine our World, to create a better, safer, healthier future, one which our children and future generations will deserve.
We can build stronger, healthier, more resilient communities, where we share, co-operate more, teach and learn from one another.
We can purchase the items we really want and not the things we’ve been made to feel that we ‘can’t live without’. We can employ conscious decision-making.
We can look first at what we already own and what we truly need. We can maintain the possessions that we have and keep them in use for longer. We can purchase pre-loved and use our creativity to personalise.
We can lead healthier lives, with more outdoor activity, through increased levels of active travel, tree and wildflower planting, food growing...We can include our children in this, teaching them about and giving them an appreciation for the natural world.
We can improve our culinary skills and prepare more plant-based meals, using as many seasonal, locally grown ingredients as we can, cutting out environmentally nasty and often unhealthy products, such as palm oil.
We can reduce the numbers of chemicals we use, in our homes, gardens, food and toiletries, giving us improved health outcomes and cleaner indoor air quality.
We can choose to holiday in the UK, discovering new experiences and beautiful locations close to home.
There are no end of upsides and advantages to these changes that we need to be making.
If we stop shying from addressing the reality of the state of our planet, our present direction of travel and the urgency of our situation, then we can not only save our planet, but we can also thrive!
The time to do this is now. There will be no other time. So, let’s choose together to do things differently within our lives whilst the choice is still ours to take! The power lies with all of us to make a difference. Together we are powerful!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7tOYr8rbxU See Sir David King speaking from 36:50