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Something has to give

Something has to give

Climate change and global warming have been a part of my generation’s vocabulary throughout our school life. The clear need for mass, wide-scale change has been an established fact for multiple decades. Yet from the state of the planet and the predictions for its future, you would think that we’ve all been blissfully ignorant to the reality of the situation. Arguably, that’s exactly what we’ve done.

The scientific community reached a consensus on the impact of human activities on the planet’s climate and future health a long time ago, and, to a degree, governments and the political elite acknowledged the hard facts and predictions and undertook moves to act on them. 1988 saw the WMO and UNEP establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Two years later the panel called for a global treaty to be put in place after finding that “emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.” The same year saw the UN General Assembly establish a committee to negotiate a Framework Convention on Climate Change. By 1994, the UN formally entered the Convention into force with an almost universal membership. Things were looking positive (-ish).

Fast forward 20 or so years and the history of climate change legislation and action on a global scale is dire. The very fact that the Kyoto Protocol (which extended the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), adopted in 1997, took 7 years to enter into force in 2005 is a reflection of the lethargy and reluctance that has surrounded the negotiations since its beginning. [Side note: the Kyoto Protocol commits states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of the findings of the scientific community. It works on a common but ‘differentiated’ principle, whereby those developed states most responsible for the emitting of the vast majority of greenhouse gases have the largest obligation to reduce the global current contribution.] Annually, the Conference of the Parties (COP) meet to discuss progress, assess future decisions, and to establish the institutional and administrative practicalities of legislation.

Progress has, without doubt, been made. 2015 saw the 21st meeting of the COP in Paris, which established and led to the adoption of the historical Paris Agreement. It set an aim to strengthen the global response to climate change by keeping ‘global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.’ However, as with all of the major climate agreements, it lacked in reach and commitment.

For example, it is well accepted that if we continue to emit at the rate allowed under Paris, a 2 degree increase would be, sadly, the best possible outcome. More realistically, we are on track for a 3-4 degrees Celsius increase by 2100. A study by the University of Washington predicts that there is a massive 90% chance that by the end of the century temperatures could have risen between 2 and 4.9 degrees Celsius. John Schellnhubur, president of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research tells us that “if we venture far beyond the 2 degrees guardrail, towards the 4 degrees line, the risk of crossing tipping points rises sharply. The only way to avoid this is to break the business-as-usual pattern of production and consumption.” That could be read as ‘something has to give.’ We can only push our planet so far before turning back is no longer a viable option. Our lifestyle of extraction and emitting on its current level MUST change. “Crossing tipping points” can be read as food shortages, frequent and disastrous droughts, floods and storms, wars over resources and land and the eventual loss of major cities like London, New York and Shanghai. And have no doubt that those that will be the hardest hit by the monumental impact of climate change will be the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us.

So what do we do? Stick our heads in the sand and hope our governments and leaders solve the issue? Adopt an ‘I won’t be here when sh*t hits the fan anyway’ mentality? Remain ignorant or even try and downplay the issue? (Climate change denialists deserve a post all to themselves at a later date…)

No. We accept nothing less than a passionate, all-out, engaged response from everyone around us. Why? Because we have no choice. It’s as dramatic and as simple as that.

The clock is ticking, and it’s time we all opened our eyes to the reality of what’s approaching on the horizon. Whilst we can’t all pull up a seat at the next COP and start heckling world leaders to shut down their coal factories, we can be more vocal, active, and impassioned. We can take small steps to reduce our own carbon footprint, from turning off unnecessary lights, to walking instead of driving. We can back on the ground action, from signing petitions, to supporting NGOs and charities that are putting in the ground work involved in protecting and caring for our planet. And importantly, we must accept that there has come a time where we must make a decision. Whether we want to continue living our lives as we do which will mean continuing on a path whereby our planet could in the future become inhabitable to human life, or we say enough is enough. And we accept that doing something about the mess we are in will mean that our global economy and society must change, and dramatically so.

The human race is designed, at its core, to survive and to thrive. It is hard to see how those children in Beijing, who at times can’t play outside in school lunch breaks due to dangerously high air pollution, are thriving. Without pollution masks and government advice, they would barely even be surviving.

I want to talk about climate change and the politics and general mentality around it more frequently on this website in the future. I’m not an expert but I’m passionate, and that’s enough for now. At some point I aim to write up a more detailed, comprehensive list of things we can all do, individually, to make a positive and genuine impact in terms of more sustainable living.

Bottom line is, something has to give. We can’t sit by idly any longer, twiddling our thumbs and blocking out the scary news reports as we hurtle towards destruction. We value our planet too much to let political elites who care more about their wealth and prosperity than the ability of our species to thrive, long term, set us on an unchangeable and catastrophic path.

 

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17 thoughts on “Something has to give”

  • Beautifully written, Kirstie! Thank you for writing this post. I especialy love how you’ve listed your sources out for everyone to explore more. I am also not an expert but am passionate about educating people on the importance of this issue. I loved reading your thoughts on the matter and look forward to reading more of what you have to say in the future. 🙂

    It is hard for me to imagine people not caring for the world in which they live. Especially having been extremely fortunate to travel and see many places in the world! It has made me more conscious of how I take care of our environment. I currently just moved from Charleston, SC–in my opinon the most amazing city I have ever visited/lived in!

    Charleston is is currently among the East Coasts most vulnerable metropolitan areas to rising sea levels and climate change. It is unthinkable that if things continue as they are, Charleston will be wiped out in the near future. That alone is enough to convict me of how I take care of the environment and wish more people felt the same. All we can do is educate and pray that people will accept the fact that climate change is real!

    However, I think the most heartbreaking reality of it all is, as you mentiond above…the reality that the poorest and most vulnerable populations will be impacted the most. People who should suffer no more. The Social Worker heart in me breaks (I am currently studying for my Master’s in Social Work). I cannot fathom the suffering that will take place on people who do not deserve anymore suffering.

    P.S.If you get the chance please visit Charleston. The history and people are amazing and I personally wish everyone would viist and will enjoy my city as much as I do!

    All the best Xx

    Reagan

      • Thanks for the kind words Reagan! Don’t worry, my posts are littered with grammar errors before they’re edited haha!

        You’re right, education and exposing people to the harsh reality I think is the biggest way forward. That’s another thing that frustrates me so much! The big business and corporations that are doing the most damage are the most financially stable in our societies. They, along with the rest of the elite, know that in reality their future doesn’t have to be negatively impacted. Messed UP!

        I’d love to visit Charleston! It sounds beautiful. Loads of love,

        Kirstie x

  • I love the way you are so passionate about our wonderful planet and how you have an increble writing technique and persuasive voice to inspire others and aware others of the damage we are making on this world. The thing is you’re 100% accurate when it comes to reducing OUR carbon foot print. Yes we may not be able to sit down and tell the most powerful but yet, some unreal people how we can reduce the increasing temperature annually, but we can certainly as a respectable human being to our habitat, use paper straws instead of plastic without thinking about it yet make a small, but increasingly growing difference to our planet. Simple things make the most difference in this world and we must work globally as a whole to fufil this. After all we can’t move from planet to planet and destroy them as we go along so we must take care of our own whilst it lasts. We also DO need to think about what our ancestors will have to live in if we don’t protect our planet now. Thank you for writing such an amazing post Kirstie. I love your post and they are all things that I am very passionate about and topics that other human beings need to become more interested in. Ps sorry for the long comment

    • Ah thank you Charlotte, that means a lot. We can definitely all have an impact, and like you say, they don’t even have to be hugely complex. It’s the difference between using public transport a couple days a week if we have the means, instead of driving everywhere. Super easy but collectively have a big impact.

      Thanks again xx

  • very well written post and super informative! But I feel like your china example was a bit extreme – I’ve lived there for a few years and while people are concerned, children aren’t on the verge of death because of the pollution (although long-term effects are debatable). Even in Beijing, we get blue skies once in a week if we’re lucky. Hope this helped! I agree, something has to give before the stagnant status quo becomes a sort of permission mechanism for countries to pollute the earth while they can.

    • Hi Luana! Thanks so much. You’re right, I should have specified. I was talking about the major cities that suffer most, and in this case I was referencing Beijing. There were numerous reports and articles about that exact thing happening over the past few years. I edited the post and swapped Beijing with China because you’re right, bit of a blanket statement! xx

  • Our world is slowly deteriorating, and people don’t give a shit about that. What is the use of a growing economy when the place becomes unhabitable as the time goes? It’s so nice there’s a person like you. I love your advocates. I even used different accounts for your petition. I’m looking forward to more of these blog!

  • thank you for writing about this! the situation is indeed getting more dire every day, and our governments definitely are not doing enough to cut emissions (even in Europe the action being taken i snot enough). the problem is also that once we get past that 2 degree threshold, the damage and changes in our environment won’t be linear with temperature increases but it will be exponential (and even climate scientists aren’t sure what exactly that means). climate change is a super complex topic but everyone can understand it if they start paying attention. so thank you for using your voice to bring attention to it 🙂 would love to see if you can write about some more practical aspects of this (i.e. what the normal-human themselves can do :)) – i’m sure people would be open to that!

  • Very wonderfully worded Kirstie! I’m so happy to be able to read such an influential response on a topic like this! As someone who is still in high school, it’s really difficult to be able to have a rational discussion with an adult about this topic when you’re a 15 year old girl without being told that “I don’t know what I’m talking about.” So thank you for this post! I really hope that some of my friends will be able to read this and get inspired to help the environment more, just as I have! xx

  • Please do write another post with more detail on what we can do to help. Ive always been interested in helping our planet, but ive never known how or where to start. Another wonderful and intelligent post, as always. Lots of love x

  • Wonderfully worded. I’ve just started a blog and for my second post I am going to be writing about this issue! Something needs to be done! I’m so glad that there’s someone like you who’s not just expressing how they feel but also trying their hardest to make a change xx

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