The need to act on climate change
Climate change. A looming disaster for economies around the world as well as the Earth itself. The fact that it's not an instantaneous crisis but one that slowly impacts us and future generations has resulted in laissez faire approaches from governments, where big, bold targets are set but little will be done to achieve them, as if to say to future generations; "these are your problems”. Action is needed now to limit the damage.
The consequences of climate change intrude into every sphere of life, be it on a small or large scale. Smaller effects can be seen in the record temperatures we are seeing in summers, for example, when the 2022 summer heatwave in the UK saw record high temperatures across the country. The knock-on effect was massive; fires caused by the dry conditions damaged infrastructure, while the extreme heat sapped worker productivity and caused health issues such as heat stroke, putting additional strain on the NHS and the overall economy. On a larger scale, climate change threatens millions of lives due to issues like rising sea levels, which is being caused by the melting of the ice caps and thermal expansion. Sea levels are predicted to rise by a foot by 2050, and this would be catastrophic for densely populated coastal cities like New York, Sydney and Miami. Rising sea levels threaten people's homes, coastal habitats, and could potentially contaminate soil and ground water, causing a knock on effect for people in-land as well. These are just a few of the problems that climate change will cause, and they will get worse if rapid action is not taken to quell and reverse it.
The driving force behind climate change is man-made greenhouse gases, which artificially raise the earth's temperature by trapping the sun's heat within the Earth. These greenhouse gases are produced every day mainly through the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, which both release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. With the amount we know, we should be transitioning towards cleaner energy and preserving our forests; however, in recent times we’ve seen the Amazon rainforest's deforestation rate increase by 60% under Brazil's former president Bolsonaro during his tenure from 2019 - 2022. Similarly, during Trump's presidency, climate protection was weakened in favour of fossil fuel-burning industries. Both examples show us the unscrupulous approach that has been taken towards climate change, sacrificing our future to boost our present economies. A more sustainable economic approach is needed to maintain our planet.
So what should be done? Most importantly, when huge targets are set by governments, like the UK's "net zero by 2050" goal, the strategy provided needs to be properly followed and reinforced through small incremental changes that build up over time to make a large positive difference. Future agreements should learn from previous efforts like the Paris climate agreement, which promised to limit the world's temperature from warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but will likely not happen now due to the lack of incremental change. More investment needs to be set aside for greener technologies like wind power, solar power and geothermal energy. Another way of helping would be protecting our forests, which act as carbon sinks absorbing some of the toxic gases we emit into the atmosphere. We can also help the environment every day by recycling and walking to school or work if possible; most importantly, we can speak up and raise awareness about these issues among others. To conclude, there is no quick fix for climate change, but it’s more necessary than ever for the world to act now and protect our home. Further neglect risks catastrophe, so we must act now to fight for our future.
Josef McDonald is a gap year student applying for BSc Economics courses.