Heat Waves Incoming – The Impact of Rising Temperatures on our Planet

As temperatures soared up to 40 degrees centigrade in parts of the UK last weekend, many were hit with the searing reality that the climate catastrophe is truly here. Right now. In our present lives. It is no longer a subject of dystopian art, of forewarnings by distraught scientists, resigned to the fact 50 years ago, or of empty promises made at UN Climate Change Conferences, far too little, far too late. We are in the throngs of the very beginning.

It was a rude awakening for many, as here in the Global North it came right to our doorsteps for the first time. The heat was unbearable, with our infrastructure built for summers at least 10 degrees C less than the inferno that we were hit with. And it will come as no surprise to most, especially those that have first-hand experienced it, that since records began in 1884, the 10 hottest years have all been since 2002.

 

 

For those asking “is this the new normal?” It is predicted to get far worse.

Humans, however, were the least hard hit among UK residents. A wildfire burned 82 acres of thorny scrub in Wild Ken Hill Reserve in Norfolk over the weekend, destroying countless nests of turtle doves, grasshopper warblers and reed warblers; and burning alive countless animals from several reptile and amphibian species. Further still, across the rest of the UK, swifts fell out of the sky in London; seaweed habitats fried, along with the inhabitants – barnacles, mussels, sponges, and sea anemones; and wildlife rehabilitation centres were overrun with dehydrated hedgehogs, baby birds, fox cubs and grass snakes. Insects too were hit as vulnerable creatures – bumblebees and butterflies especially.

Read the full report from the Guardian here.

A Global Outlook

It’s time for us to move away from this Eurocentric perspective. Globally, the planet’s temperature has risen 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 1.5 degrees above is a critical level.

Worldwide in the last couple of years, we’ve seen drought, hurricanes, heatwaves, floods, winter storms and wildfires ravaging our planet.

Climate refugees have become one of the largest sub sectors of refugees, with 21.5 million people being displaced due to weather-related events since 2008. Further still, the climate crisis ties directly to conflict, as poverty caused by failed crop yields, food and water scarcity, and homeless from flooding, leads to desperation, making some of the poorest vulnerable to recruitment by malicious groups. One such example of this was in Syria. ​​Zurich, reports that: ‘This domino effect was felt in Syria, where the desertification of formerly fertile farming land between 2006 and 2010 meant crop yields were cut, 800,000 people lost their income and 85 percent of the country’s livestock died. As people lost their livelihoods, food prices soared, and 1.5 million rural workers moved to the city to find jobs. Those left behind facing poverty were an easy target for recruiters from the Islamic State.’

In terms of the environment, The Australian wildfires took centre stage 2019 – 2020, as just one of many devastating wildlife tragedies of recent times, killing 1.25 billion animals and injuring 3 billion. That was just one isolated event, of hundreds over the last few years, and it’s terrifying. We are undergoing our 6th and largest mass extinction at the moment, due to human-induced climate change. According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), the species extinction rate is estimated between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than natural extinction rates—the rate of species extinctions that would occur if we humans were not around. That is 150 species of animals going extinct every day.

And this is just the beginning. 1.5 degrees. The critical number.

Head to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for more in depth information about these topics.

So. We need to ask ourselves some serious questions.

What is to be done about it? Who is at fault? Who do we need to hold accountable? Is it too late? Is it reversible? What can we do as individuals?

Firstly, as I’ve mentioned before, in my Bio Plastic guide, the climate crisis is not the everyday person’s responsibility we are so often told. As consumers of carbon and other products responsible for climate change, the onus is not entirely on you. Your personal carbon footprint is absolutely minuscule compared to that of the world’s millionaires and billionaires, traversing the world in private jets, yachts, and even out to space. To put this in perspective, these were the findings from Oxfam’s Confronting Carbon Inequality report:

– The richest 10 percent accounted for over half (52 percent) of the emissions added to the atmosphere between 1990 and 2015. The richest one percent were responsible for 15 percent of emissions during this time – more than all the citizens of the EU and more than twice that of the poorest half of humanity (7 percent).

– During this time, the richest 10 percent blew one third of our remaining global 1.5C carbon budget, compared to just 4 percent for the poorest half of the population. The carbon budget is the amount of carbon dioxide that can be added to the atmosphere without causing global temperatures to rise above 1.5C – the goal set by governments in the Paris Agreement to avoid the very worst impacts of uncontrolled climate change.

– Annual emissions grew by 60 percent between 1990 and 2015. The richest 5 percent were responsible for over a third (37 percent) of this growth. The total increase in emissions of the richest one percent was three times more than that of the poorest 50 percent.

Yet still, demand drives production.

There are a handful of simple things we can do as a collective:

  1. Lobby your local MPs and governments.
  2. Reduce your meat consumption to reduce deforestation for animal agriculture.
  3. Buy less plastic and shop sustainably
  4.  Reduce water consumption
  5. Fly and use a car less. Cycle and walk more!
  6. Stop buying fast fashion. Completely.
  7. Spread the word.

Education is the key to change, so keep on shouting loudly about it! Eventually, the government and Big Corps will listen and instrument the huge changes that are needed to prevent it from getting any worse. The solutions exist already, we just need our governments to agree to implement them.

We understand that all this information can be very overwhelming and can trigger eco anxiety in all of us. If this is something you’ve been dealing with then consider reading our article on How To Deal With Eco Anxiety for help and advice.