Climate Trauma : A Beginning of the End
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Artwork by Tina Spiro
Written by Virtika Choudhry
The 17-year old social-activist Greta Thunberg in her speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit said “we’re in the beginning of a mass extinction”.
Climate Change is one of the major concerns the world is dealing with; from the changing weather patterns which jeopardize food security to the rising sea-levels that increases the risk of flooding.
The CO2 levels have doubled because of the rise in global warming in the last 50 years, (according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) which has led to melting of glaciers and high temperatures during summers.The doubling of the CO2 levels can be noticed as there has been a significant rise in global warming which has led to melting of glaciers, high temperatures during summers, odd-timed monsoon seasons etc.
Climate change not only has an adverse impact on the environment but also on the people due to the increase in air pollution levels. The pollutants in the air can lead to people suffering from diseases like diarrhea, asthma and other respiratory ailments. Other grave consequences of climate change are skin-related diseases due to exposure to the harmful UV rays, floods and droughts, forest fires and many naturally occurring calamities that might be fuelled by the climatic conditions.
The rising temperature, on account of global warming is causing glaciers and land ice to melt and as the melting water flows into the ocean. Further, the increase in the amount of water causes the sea level to rise. Moreover, as greenhouse gases trap more energy from the sun, the oceans will absorb more heat which will result in an increase in sea surface temperatures and a rising sea level that could potentially flood small islands over time, have a devastating effect on coastal habitats farther inland, it can cause destructive erosion, wetland flooding and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.
According to an assessment, from 1880 to 2012 the global temperature has risen by 0.85 degree Celsius, the oceans have warmed and the average sea level has risen by nearly 19 cm as the oceans have expanded due to melting of ice. The assessment stated “Given current concentrations and ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century global mean temperature will continue to rise above the pre-industrial level.” So, if we did not take appropriate measures to acknowledge and control the affliction that is Climate Change, then the impact it will have in the near future will be costly to both the inanimate world and human life.
Greta Thunberg, a young environmental activist, added that “big governments and businesses around the world are not moving quickly enough to cut carbon emissions and has attacked world leaders for failing young people” which is true, case in point, just before the start of the 24th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change or COP24 , 50 major global businesses from the World Economic Forum representing $1.5 trillion in revenue had signed an open letter to develop stronger action towards the change in climate at COP25. Thirty of the signatories have already succeeded in reducing carbon emissions by 9% between 2015 and 2016 and all of the businesses that had signed agreed to urge governments to fast track solutions to deal with climate change.
However, according to Katrien Steenmans, a researcher in environmental law at the University of Surrey, the outcome of the latest COP shows that they are not taking actions enough to match business’ expectations. With some of the key decisions postponed until COP25 and beyond, she stated, “governments are neither delivering faster change nor clearer signals as demanded by leading organisations from the World Economic Forum in November.”
The critical consequences of climate change definitely affects the prerequisites of population health like clean air and water, sufficient food and a secure shelter, but it hits vulnerable communities (ailing patients, children, economically backward classes) the most. A report by the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health pointed out that the disadvantaged communities are likely to face a disproportionate share of the burden of climate change because they are more exposed and vulnerable to health threats, that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
There are various arguments against how the world is dealing with climate change but the important thing to ask is, what are we as individuals doing to protect our planet? Each and every person can play their part in this war against pollution and the earth burning down. Not everyone can have the same amount of resources or means to create an impact, therefore, we should respect the same and do our bit and start from little changes in our daily lives.
Even steps like using recyclable garbage bags or separating recyclable and non-recyclable garbage or reusing plastic bags would mean a great deal in this effort. However, politicians, diplomats and NGOs obviously have a higher degree of responsibility and should form policies, take preventive measures and spread awareness about the same.
Although, it is interesting to note that those who take action to conserve energy sometimes do so for reasons disjoint to the cause of the environment. Lorraine Whitmarsh, explains in her Journal of Environmental Psychology that to examine whether climate change mitigation strategies are effective, the researchers and policy-makers use energy consumption as an indicator. The research described in her paper examines both actions taken ‘out of concern for climate change’ and energy conservation practices amongst the UK public. To prove this, the public of the United Kingdom was examined- the UK government data show that consumption of energy amongst the public is rising even though the measures to encourage energy conservation were being taken. The findings showed a clear divergence between actions prescribed by policy-makers (i.e. energy conservation) and those taken by the public to mitigate climate change (e.g., recycling). Furthermore, it was apprehended that those who take action to conserve energy generally do so for reasons unconnected to the environment, say to save money.
Recently, the Metronome’s digital clock clock in New York City was reprogrammed to illustrate a critical window for action to prevent the effects of global warming from becoming irreversible, based on a suggestion by the artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd. According to these artists, total depletion would thrust the world into further turmoil and suffering through more flooding, more wildfires, worsening famine and extensive human displacement. We have already witnessed a great deal of wildfires and floods this year worldwide which is worrisome and alarming for each and every living being on this planet.
It is high time that each and every global citizen plays their part in this fight and together we might even succeed to prevent the doom we’re being subjected to. I think we all can win the combat against ourselves only by doing our bit to save the Earth so that no other animal has to go extinct and no other 15-year-old child like Greta Thunberg has to leave their studies in order to fight alone against this scourge- responsibility for which is on everyone’s shoulders.
There is a need for implementation of international treaties on environment at a local level so that they are incorporated in the local laws which would create a yardstick for accountability for environmental harm by individuals. Thus, if these kinds of measures are implemented, I believe the situation would improve in the near future.