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?