Ecology, Globe, Human Rights, United Kingdom

The climate cliff: the emergency is now

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that, to stave off an irreversible climate catastrophe, we had only until 2030 to cut global emissions of carbon dioxide by around 40%.

 

Kira Nash

 

In 2020, the leader of the year-long MOSAiC expedition to the Arctic said that we may have already reached the tipping point: the point after which we can only mitigate the damage of climate change, not reverse the process.

Evidence from around the world, on a daily basis, highlights the desperate severity of the situation and the rapidly decreasing time we have to turn it around. It was revealed last week that parts of the Amazon rainforest now emit more CO2 than they absorb. Yet although we are running out of time and options to save ourselves and preserve this beautiful planet, governments, businesses, and individual people refuse to change, refuse to take responsibility for the present or the future.

The recent extreme heat, drought, and wildfires in North America’s Pacific Northwest are obvious examples of the damage we continue to do.

The town of Lytton in Canada was burnt to the ground by a raging blaze that ignited after climbing temperatures reached a record 121.3°F (49.6°).

The “heat dome” that settled over the northwest of North America caused hundreds of human deaths and the deaths of millions — possibly more than one billion — marine animals.

You might think that the Canadian government would take steps to protect its country’s environment from future devastation, but Canada’s record on climate change is worse than that of any other G7 country, and it has higher emissions now than in 1990.

The government allows itself to be lobbied, and its policies decided, by the fossil fuel industry. The hellish heat and persistent lack of rain are also affecting areas further south. Lake Mead, the reservoir behind the Hoover Dam that provides water for seven US states and part of Mexico, is at its lowest ever level.

It may be the worst drought in 1200 years. The consequences for agriculture, indigenous people, and the lives of those who get their water from the lake and river system will be catastrophic.

Yet people in the region forget that they live in an arid desert, that every drop of water is precious. Las Vegas is banning “non-functional” grass because people keep watering their lawns. They drive 4x4s with unmentionable fuel economy.

John Wesley Powell, a pioneering American ethnographer and Civil War veteran, wrote in 1878 of the imperative to develop the southwest sensitively, if at all, due to its unforgiving climate and scarcity of water. He was ignored.

In Australia, where the Great Barrier Reef is under constant threat from temperature rises related to the burning of fossil fuels, the government has teamed up with oil-producing nations Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to lobby against Unesco’s decision that the Reef is danger. And several years ago, Unesco allowed itself to be lobbied by the Australian government.

France, after banning neonicotinoid pesticides — known as “bee killers” — has reintroduced their use as a prophylactic measure in certain instances to appease the sugar-beet industry.

It is speculated that other industries will soon call for permission to use the chemicals too: corn growers have asked already.

When the coastline of Brittany is so poisoned with toxic algae overgrowth from agricultural runoff that the resulting hydrogen sulphide gas can kill people, horses, and dogs in seconds, and the water tables in Brittany and Normandy contain dangerously high levels of agro-chemicals, you would think that someone, somewhere, might do something about it.

Spain grows much of the produce for the UK and Europe, but its agricultural “sea of plastic” in the Almería can be seen from space.

The grow houses and poly tunnels that allow fruits and vegetables to be grown year-round host an inordinate number of chemical fertilisers which pollute the lands around and are linked to heightened rates of breast and testicular cancers and other illnesses.

A sperm whale was found dead after having swallowed 37 pounds of plastic waste from the 135-square-mile site. Aquifers are drained, landscapes destroyed, plastic pollution is deep enough to wade through in some places.

Yet it all makes a lot of people a lot of money, so there is no incentive to clean it up or shut it down.

In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defence invented its own metrics to allow it to sell off a rare grassland site for development, an act which would also devastate an adjacent site of special scientific interest. Taylor Wimpey homes attempted to block plans to cut CO2 emissions by at least three-quarters from new houses and resisted calls to replace greenhouse-gas emitting gas boilers with heat pumps.

Water companies discharge raw sewage into rivers and the sea because they know that, even if they incur fines and penalties, the cost of the punishment will be less than the cost of cleaning up their operations.

There is pollution — from sewage, agriculture, runoff from towns and cities, etc. — in every English lake and river. In 2020, every single one contained pollution above the legal limits laid down in EU law.

The BBC and Channel Four allowed themselves to be lobbied and influenced by the fossil fuel industry for years, with the BBC even teaching children about the “positive” effects of climate change which included, of course, the availability of more oil as arctic ice melts.

Car manufacturers BMW, Daimler, and VW, the second and third of which already came under fire for deliberately “fixing” their emissions results, have now been found to have been working together to slow the implementation of technology resulting in cleaner emissions.

ExxonMobil has actively lobbied against the climate and legislation on plastic waste.

When the world is burning or under water and the water is too toxic to drink, what good will money be? It is up to each of us to clean up our own lives and hold industry and politicians to account. We are not entitled to destroy this planet.

Learn where and how your food was grown. Tomatoes in January are not natural. Limit your driving as much as you can. Understand that you are not entitled to fly off on a foreign holiday. Only support companies who work for the environment and not against it. Accept that you may have some hard decisions to make. Think about what really matters: a new piece of plastic and blueberries in December, or a healthy world.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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