The climate crisis has had a profound effect on today’s society; however, this is something that has been a problem for many decades and not enough change has been enforced to ensure a positive outlook for the future of the planet. A report published by the US based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA has confirmed that 2010 to 2019 was the hottest decade on record. It also confirmed that in 2012, nearly the entire Greenlandic ice sheet melted, resulting in a rise in sea levels which are already rising at alarming rates.
Melting ice from both Greenland and Antarctica has added around 36 millimetres of fresh water to the world’s oceans in the past decade which has contributed to increasing flooding in some coastal regions. To put this into perspective, data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show that Greenland has lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019, and an increase in the oceans temperatures has also contributed to a loss of 148 billion tons of ice per year in the same period of time in Antarctica.
This rapid increase in ice sheets melting is a direct cause of the severe impact climate change is having on the environment, this includes the oceans’ absorption of between 20% and 30% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions in the recent decades. Scientists are now saying that Arctic warming is causing the jet stream to wobble in ways that will lead to more extreme weather conditions by creating zones of high-pressure air, bringing with it extreme heat, and creating an even more concerning outlook for the future of these vital ice sheets and the rising sea levels.
Economically speaking, the financial implications of climate change are colossal for modern day society. Natural disasters related to climate change have cost around £474 billion globally in the past few years alone, this amounts to more than 0.25% of total GDP. The UN has warned that by 2040 the damages associated with the deterioration of the climate could be detrimental for the global economy and cost up to £46 trillion. Another study done by Stanford in 2015 has attempted to project the impact climate change has on GDP and this concluded that there was a 51% chance that climate change would reduce the world’s GDP by more than 20%, this is comparable to that of the Great Depression where the GDP fell by 27%.
These figures are striking, and therefore it should not only be climate activists and environmentalists who are concerned over the damage that climate change is doing to the planet, everyone should be. It is contributing to a deteriorating economy. Particularly now with the COVID-19 pandemic, the detrimental effects on the economy have never been more unsettling. In the case of climate change, these effects on the economy would be permanent, and possibly irreversible.
Under the voluntary goals set in the Paris agreement, the world would still be producing the equivalent of up to 58 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year by 2030. The global effort is not enough to prevent the possibility of an incredibly bleak future and scientists have predicted that sometime between 2042 and 2052 the increase in the Earth’s temperature will lead to ice-free Arctic summers. The World Health Organisation found how climate change also has an alarming threat to our safety as they project its consequences will kill 241,000 people per year by 2030, and heat-related illnesses will cause an additional 121,464 deaths by the year 2030.
The impact of humans on our planet is now so extensive that many scientists are declaring a new phase in the Earth’s history known as The Anthropocene, a human-dominated epoch of geological time. Climate change is arguably the definitive Anthropocene phenomenon, and this is a caused by human activity with vastly problematic planetary consequences. When there are such implications to people’s lives, the economy, and the future existence of the planet, surely this should be a much bigger concern for those in power?
Draeyk van der Horn is a Renew member and a smallholder on Dartmoor. He reflects on the effects that tourism and intensive farming methods are having on the local and national environment.
Living on Dartmoor is an honour, running our smallholding with sheep and apple orchards is a pleasure. Yet the yearly influx of visitors, the competing demands for access, these are costs often borne by the farmers who take pride in the land they farm and are happy to share it - but as the environmental costs are rising, who will pay?
Visitors come to the countryside to enjoy a break from a city, but are we killing what we love?
There is change in the air, and the environmental costs are becoming more and more tangible, impacting our food and growing culture. We often don’t notice the impact of unreliable seasons and less predictable weather on our countryside. The realities of climate change are not in some far-off land but in the here and now and affecting the uplands and lowlands of the nation.
What is now rightly termed a “climate crisis” is impacting access to quality feed, harvests and the wellbeing of our animals. Articles in many farming publications have highlighted impacts such as soil health and water management and rewilding. Yet how many visitors to the countryside consider this?
One huge and unimagined impact of the climate crisis and industrial farming practices, driven by the idea that food should be cheap at any cost, is the utter collapse of insect life. As is so often the case, so called “pest insects” seem to fare better, but overly focusing on pests (fuelling the idea we must spray even more chemicals to deal with them) diminishes the value of all insects in a balanced ecological and indeed agricultural system. We rely on bee and insect pollination for our harvest. Yet we are doing little to rectify the devastating impact of bee colony collapse and rapid loss of our many native bee species. Yet bees pollinate a third of our UK crops? Crudely put, that is a third of our food!
An April 2018 article in the journal ScienceDirect highlighted this impact. For example, butterfly species numbers fell by 58% on farmed land in England between 2000 and 2009, while the overall abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to the journal PlosOne.
The loss of these species impacts not just farming but the wider ecosystem and the health of the land, and the greatest danger is that we do nothing.
We can improve our soils, create pollinator corridors, rewild, question pesticide practice and look at agri-environment ideas, such as the Dartmoor Farming Futures pilot which promoted a re-think and allowed farmers skills and expert knowledge to achieve beneficial environmental goals and encourage the development of new “traditions” in farming practices. Ultimately, to safeguard our food, we need to safeguard our countryside and our environment.
We have a choice, and as someone who is passionate about farming, my choice is to make a stand and speak up. Renew, a party that is growing ideas from the ground up - without a politician in sight - is doing just that. Farmers need a voice, and skills, knowledge and heritage need to be celebrated and reflected in environmental policies that will sustain our environment, our land and our future.