Climate change is only continuing to worsen with conditions predicted to be unlivable by 2070. Is it possible to save ourselves from this imminent crisis?
by Sriya Gundlapally
Today, there are about 7.8 billion people worldwide. By 2070, according to an analysis by Wittgenstein Center IISA, this is projected to be 9.4 billion. However, as we’ve seen the trends in anthropomorphic effects on our climate, a growing population is likely to exacerbate our climate issues; more people leads to an increased demand for the production of goods and services and directly tying in with more carbon emissions. In fact, a multitude of scientific studies predict that 3 billion people, one third of 2070’s global population, will be forced to live in “unlivable heat” which is much higher than the global average of 59 degrees. Furthermore, NASA predicts that the global temperature can rise by 8ºF in just 80 years without action to prevent our prevalent climate crisis.
On one hand, people believe that there is still time for action, to fix the issue of global warming. This follows the logic that there are several implementations already in place– with technology, for example–and thus, detrimental practices have been lowered. On the other hand, people are urging for more immediate action, with a large emphasis on political attention. While there have been improvements, this side sees more on how the threat of an overheated future will only become more significant. With the growing numbers of wildfires–5,371 incidents so far this year in California alone–and increasing rates of other extreme natural disasters, the attention necessary for climate change is overdue.
And that’s where the trilemma lies. Is there still time to alleviate our environmental issues or is immediate action needed? Or is there, perhaps, a neutral stance?
There is Still Time.
The Paris Climate Agreement, which almost 200 countries agreed to, envisions that countries will work towards less greenhouse gas emissions and more sustainable practices to decrease the impact of global warming. Under the current Biden administration, the U.S. has formally rejoined the agreement on February 19, 2021 after Trump withdrew from it in 2020. As the U.S. is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, this action has brought more hope into the cause of protecting Earth from its grim future. For instance, with U.S. participation, the expansion of a pipeline to transport nonrenewable resources from Canada to Nebraska, the Keystone XL pipeline, has been halted. Fortunately, this is an important step which will allow for an easier shift towards renewable energy sources. In fact, by the next decade, Biden plans to halve greenhouse gas emissions and reduce American reliance on non-renewable resources of energy.
All these advancements have given the public critical confidence in the government’s ability to focus on climate issues. Through optimism that there are still nearly 50 years until 2070, the public is now able to give increased attention to climate change. However, the effects of global warming are still on the rise.
Immediate Action is Needed.
The World Meteorological Organization warned in 2019 how the carbon dioxide levels have continued to increase, ultimately leading to an increase in extreme natural disasters and accelerated ecosystem destruction, direct impacts of global warming. Since carbon dioxide is not as easily absorbed when released into the atmosphere, any amount can have lasting effects. Unfortunately, all actions must lead to net-zero harm to the atmosphere in order to significantly slow or stop global warming. This means everyone must take part in the effort, from large corporations to ordinary individuals.
Instead of focusing on aspects we can change in the future, an unhealthy reliance on the fact that we have a few decades until we face “unlivable heat”, changing factors of our daily lives now will have a larger, more extensive, impact. Everyday actions such as recycling, composting, and reducing the usage of a car as a main mode of transportation can reduce an individual’s overall contributions to landfills and global warming. For example, composting one dry metric ton of waste can prevent 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide. With clear positive impacts like these, it is easy to see that immediate action is necessary. Real, physical activism, instead of the standard performative activism, is what we need to ensure everyone’s active and immediate effort to achieve net-zero emission in a short period of time.
Although the participation of all citizens worldwide is ideal, it is not realistic due to the existence of prevalent economic and social issues that prevent citizens from focusing on our climate crisis; poverty, racism, and sex trafficking are issues that deprive individuals of their basic human rights and access to resources that are essential for their survival. Therefore, executing more environmentally conscious actions are not as significant to individuals who face these crises, preventing the equal participation of everyone.
However, increasing concerns are important to address sooner than later. It is inevitable that climate change will continue to worsen as carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere, leading to melting ice caps and subsequent warming. However, there are certain actions that should be done, taking into the account the urgency of the issue. For example, governments should enforce new, supportive policies and ordinary citizens should enhance funding and activism. The more people who help slow climate change, the less damage that can be done, ultimately preventing our deaths from the unlivable future.