A study in 2010 stated that the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) has naturally lost mass in response to warming and grown in response to cooling. It states that there have been no major documented ice-sheet changes that have occurred to date. However, a recent study released in September of 2020 recorded that the GIS is currently melting at a faster rate than ever before in human history, an obvious warning that the warming of the planet and our need for renewable energy is urgent.
The above graph visually demonstrates the rate at which the GIS is now melting at, before natural variability resulted in some degree of change but due to our increased impact on the planet this change has become imbalanced. Furthermore, they predict that by 2100 due to increased temperatures and future climate scenarios the GIS will be completely gone.
This serves as a major climate problem, among many others, as the ice that covers our planet protects it from harmful solar radiation and the disappearance of ice can cause major disruptions to the planet’s ecosystems which depend on it.
Therefore, the need for renewable energy needs to come at a quicker rate as we are already seeing the consequences of global warming as temperatures continue to increase.
One of the biggest issues surrounding climate change is the abundance of harmful gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, and its contribution toward increasing global temperatures. As of this year, approximately 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide has been emitted into the atmosphere and with the normalised practices of modern day this number is forever climbing. However, some people are hard at work in creating solutions to these complex problems such as the idea of using hydrogen gas as a replacement to fossil fuels.
The use of hydrogen could be a promising solution as there is an abundance of hydrogen gas with very little chance of depletion. As we are starting to see the consequences of using modern day machines and the impacts on human and environmental health, hydrogen presents itself as a cleaner solution. Hydrogen when used goes through what is known as clean-burning, its by-products consisting of only water and heat which can both be recycled. Therefore, offering a much cleaner source of energy.
On paper this seems like an obvious and needed transition, however this transition will require a lot of economic investment in order to build the infrastructure required to supply hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. Presently, we are seeing some early transition and investment as of September this year, ZeroAvia successfully made their first zero emission flight using a hydrogen powered plane. Additionally, other companies such as Airbus are looking toward hydrogen powered commercial flights to be readily available in the near future. This appears to be the first steps toward zero emission engines and possibly in twenty years a normalised practice of modern times, such as internal combustion engines are today.
Transport is not the only industry this transition has impacted, as others are looking into hydrogen possibly being used within the home. Supplying houses with hydrogen as been estimated to cut carbon emissions by 6 millions tons a year. These estimations have come from the UK’s largest gas distribution network and they have also stated that this transition can help the UK become carbon neutral by 2050.
The transition toward hydrogen powered transport and households seems to be a promising solution to reducing carbon emissions. As the consequences of increased carbon emissions and warmer temperatures continue to damage the environment, looking toward alternatives such as this may be a vital consideration with the little time that is left before irreversible damage is done.
Since the invention of plastic it has revolutionised the way society operates. The many uses of plastic has grown to an enormous rate. However, one of the major drawbacks to plastic, which we have realised too late, is the large amount of damage it causes to our environment. For example, plastic is not only being dumped into waterways but most of the Indonesian food chain has been found to be poisoned by Western plastics being exported to the East (Ray et al. 2019). This is concerning as plastic waste is now everywhere we look, one critical hotbed for plastic waste being the Pacific ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean, spanning from Japan to North West America it demonstrates the harm thoughtless consumerism has had on the planet.
This highlights the tipping point that we are currently at with the environment and how our expendable view of the planet can lead to a possibly catastrophic future if we do not begin to repair our mistakes. A recent study as shown that current rate of plastic waste production exceeds the efforts taken to reduce it, meaning that even if reduction goals are met plastic waste will continue to be a burden. Researchers have estimated that by 2030 the plastic waste in the environment may increase six times the current rate. As of this year, the plastic waste produced is currently at 1.5 billion tons.
This is an extreme problem as what is somewhat overlooked is the way plastic waste can be damaging. For example, plastic takes a considerable amount of time to degrade and can break down into what is known as microplastics. These microplastics can find their way into aquatic life through consumption, as we eat many different species of fish ultimately this microplastic will find its way into humans and the consequences of this are yet to be fully discovered. Therefore, plastic waste is somewhat poisoning the environment and the health of aquatic and human life. However, there are ways to reduce the use of plastic as demonstrated in my previous posts.
The study mentioned above and the consequences of plastic waste highlight an urgency in halting the use of plastic and a serious need in finding alternative methods. Like many other damaging practices, such as the output of CO2 emissions, if we do not transition to healthier practices for both the planet and human life then in ten years time we will see the negative consequences of our destructive habits. This is made even more apparent by the climate clocks which are starting to appear in developed nations, with Berlin and very recently New York estimating that we have seven years until we see the damaging consequences of our actions. Thus, the time to change is needed now more than ever as recent news has shown that the climate goals of the Paris agreement in 2015 are not being met.
In the past decade frequent wildfires have damaged lives and wildlife in various countries. In part wildfires are natural, however with the increasing temperatures we are experiencing around the world demonstrate that the intensity of these wildfires are a result of climate change. Last year the wildfires in Australia are a clear example with approximately 5.9 million hectares of land being burned, an area almost three times the size of Wales (White & Gilbert, 2020). Currently, we are experiencing a similar catastrophe on the West coast of the United States.
The wildfires in California have spread all along the West coast across Oregon and Washington. Many people have died as a result, as well as many acres of wildlife being scorched and habitats lost. Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated from their homes and as the fires continue to spread, people are announcing that this is a climate emergency.
The West coast of the United States is currently dealing with around one-hundred wildfires. Specifically, California is currently experiencing some of the largest wildfires to date whilst simultaneously experiencing its worst drought. The signs which show that this is a result of climate change are clearly visible. As California experiences its worst droughts and hottest temperatures, neighbouring states such as Colorado are experiencing snowy weather and strong winds. One consequence of extreme climate change is unpredictable weather patterns, therefore the situation in the United States demonstrates this clearly. Additionally, strong winds exacerbate the wildfire situation, increasing the probability that it will continue to spread.
However obvious the science may seem, continued denial that climate change is ruining lives and the environment still exists. For example, when President Trump was interviewed about these catastrophic wildfires all along the West Coast, he stated that science didn’t have the answers and that it will get cooler soon. This demonstrates an obvious lack of understanding from the president as decades of scientific research show a clear causation between the increasing temperatures around the world and the frequent wildfires as a result (Young et al. 2018).
As mentioned previously in my earlier post, eating less meat can help to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere in various ways. Analysts have found that meat production and distribution uses a considerable amount of water and contributes to the harmful gases currently in our atmoshpere.
A recent study has been released demonstrating that switching to a more vegetarian diet may help reverse the amounts of CO2 present in the atmosphere. Claiming that a diet consisting predominantly of vegetables and other foods rather than meat will result in a healthier outcome for both you and the planet. Researchers have found that by making this dietary transition could remove sixteen years of harmful emissions by 2050. They claim that unlike large-scale technological solutions, this method is quicker and more efficient at extracting CO2 from the atmosphere.
Additionally, the researchers involved in the study demonstrate the areas of land-use that have been minimised due to meat production:
This highlights an alarming reality where a normalised diet of meat consumption has resulted in the degradation of the planet’s environment. As this is a norm for most of modern society to consume meat and however hard it may be for some people to resist advertisement, such as promoting fast food, there are clear indicators that switching to a more vegetarian diet can aid the planet toward a healthy recovery.
In summary, the profitable but harmful practices of modern day capitalism demonstrate an urgency in people to become more self-aware. This awareness, practiced by simply eating less meat and more, undertaken by the majority can be seen to have tremendous outcomes in repairing our damaged planet. Therefore, the urgency needed for people to act has now become more apparent than ever before.