If your Twitter feed looks anything like mine, I’m sure you’ll have noticed Donald Trump’s uncanny habit of voicing a very controversial and usually somewhat outrageous thought, normally accompanied by a backlash of equally controversial replies. A few weeks ago, he once more completely disregarded global warming as an issue, saying that New York, which was in the grip of record-low temperatures, could do with some of “that good old Global Warming”.
Despite the President of the USA writing off climate change as “a hoax”, “created by and for the Chinese”, the colder-than-average temperatures the East of America suffered are a direct consequence of global warming – it sounds contradictory since it’s global warming, but the snowstorm intensified because of the increased volume of water in the oceans, mainly due to the melting of ice caps and expansion as the water heats. In the future if we continue doing exactly what we’re doing now, we can expect a lot more extreme weather – intense snowstorms, killer cyclones – you name it, we’ll get it.
Global warming isn’t exactly a new concept; in 1896, Svante Arrhenius thought that the burning of fossil fuels could increase the earth’s temperature, although it wasn’t until the 1930s that anybody paid much attention to his theory. Since then, the burning of fossil fuels has increased massively with advancements in technology and manufacturing, meaning that the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere have inclined too. Only now are we feeling the full, furious force of global warming.
2016 was the hottest year recorded since 1880, and since 2001, sixteen out of the 17 hottest years ever have occurred. By the end of this century, scientists are predicting the earth’s temperature to have risen by another 6˚c. Whilst it may mean you have to pay less for aeroplane tickets to exotic hot countries to get that perfect tan, this shows the effect human activities are having on the planet and the figure is only going to go up unless we do something drastic about it.
Speaking of aeroplane tickets, the two-million people per year who visit the Great Barrier Reef will now be looking at much more bleached and damaged coral than there used to be – two thirds of the Reef has been damaged by water temperatures becoming too high. The sea levels are rising too, at the fastest rate for 2000 years due to the thermal expansion of the water and the melting of the ice caps. Scientists say that, since 1979, the Arctic sea ice coverage has decreased every decade by between 3.5-4.1% – in more accessible figures, in 1980 there were 7 million km² of Arctic sea ice, similar in size to Australia, whereas in 2015 the coverage amounted to just under 4 million km², just slightly bigger than of all the countries in the European Union put together.
Similarly, skiing could be a much shorter luxury holiday for many, as scientists are predicting that by the end of 2100, ski resorts in the Alps could have 70% less snow. The increase in global temperatures will result in more precipitation and humidity instead of the fine white powder, affecting the economy of many countries who rely upon winter sports for income and species adapted to live in those conditions.
The future sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it?
Even more so when wealthy and educated countries like the USA intend to pull out of the Paris Agreement, a convention designed to try and limit global warming to 2˚C this century – when I said Trump is controversial, I meant it. Set up in 2016, the USA was among the first of 195 countries to sign up to the Agreement (being one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases) but after Trump’s repeated claims that global warming is a “hoax”, he stated that it was his wish to leave the Agreement. Although the loss of such a powerful contributor to global warming will make an impact, predictions show that the even meeting the target of 2˚C will only delay the worst consequences, and that as an entire population we need to do much more.
Of course, we can all introduce little things into our daily routine to help combat and mitigate climate change, independent of national and international efforts. As a hot chocolate addict, I know of some schemes that help the environment as well as your pocket. Global coffee chains such as Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero have introduced reusable cups, discounting the standard price and therefore leading to a decline in the number of disposable paper cups being sent to landfill. In the longer term, renewable energy resources will undoubtedly become more popular; as the price of fossils fuels rise, using sources such as solar and wind power will be more pocket- and eco-friendly. Smart Cars are also being gradually introduced, weaning drivers off the tradition diesel or petrol-fuelled cars and increasing the use of biofuels. Carpools are also a viable option – you save the planet and get the chance to socialise, so what’s not to love?!
“Reduce, re-use and recycle” is probably a programme you’ve heard of but if you check your waste, to what extent do you reduce, re-use and recycle? My guess would be not as much as you could, and this is a really simple way to help mitigate global warming, without straining yourself too much. Do you really need that bottle of shampoo, when you already have 4 bottles open? Can you really do nothing else with that empty yoghurt pot than throw it in the bin? The three Rs are an easy method of contributing to the sustenance of the planet, and it’s one that you should definitely make a conscious effort into maintaining.
Unless we all begin to make changes in our everyday choices, the future looks very bleak indeed. No matter what Trump says, the earth is increasing in temperature and it’s because of human activity, although with small, subtle, eco-friendly changes we can begin to make a difference.