In the hard-hitting 2016 documentary “Before The Flood”, Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio made a global case against ignoring climate change, highlighting the devastating effect it can have on the planet.
You don’t have to be a climate scientist, however, to know just how bad the situation is. Carbon dioxide emissions have been on a continuous rise, having increased by nearly 50 percent since 1990. Oceans are warming. The average sea level has already risen by 19 centimetres between 1901 and 2010. Of the 8,300 known animal species, 8 percent are extinct with another 22 percent at the risk of extinction.
Needless to say, we need to act and fast. Else, things will get worse. Don’t believe us? Have a look at these very ‘real predictions’ scientists have made for 2030. Unless countries work collectively towards mitigating the effects of climate change, scientists say many of these chilling predictions are likely to come true:
It is considered one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth but, if CO2 emissions continue unchecked, we stand to lose this invaluable part of our planet forever. Says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a researcher at The University of Queensland, who has studied the effect of climate change on the reef in detail, “If we don’t increase our commitment to solve the burgeoning stress from local and global sources, the reef will disappear.” The state of the reef shows just how devastating ignoring climate change can be. To save the Great Reef, we need to not only reduce reliance on carbon-based fuels, but also develop mechanisms to prevent further losses. Else, there will be no Great Barrier Reef by 2030.
Even high school textbooks warn against destruction of wildlife habitats but it clearly hasn’t had any effect on humans. As a result, the population of animals reduced by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, as per a 2016 report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Zoological Society. From tigers and elephants to parrots and seals, a vast range of wildlife is already endangered or extinct. The good news, though, is that there is a way to save precious wildlife. If we ask our governments to put an end to the demand and supply of illegal wildlife products, it can pre-empt poaching and trafficking of protected species. Reforestation, sustainable use of forest produce, restoring degraded land and soil can also go a long way in protecting wildlife habitats. If the losses remain unchecked, scientists predict we could lose 67 percent of animal species by 2020.
In 2012, a report commissioned by Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 20 developing countries threatened by climate change, revealed some shocking facts. The report estimated that 5 million deaths occur every year on account of air pollution, hunger, and disease as a direct result of climate change. It further estimated that over 100 million people will die by 2030 if urgent action is not taken. 90 percent of these deaths are likely to occur in developing countries, making it imperative for the global community, especially developed nations, to come forward and help these countries by not only providing them with aid, but also by advising them on effective policy making.
You know things are truly desperate when you start losing entire towns to flood. Hoi An in Vietnam is one such town. A major tourist attraction, the town remains prone to flooding as it is barely 2 metres above the sea level. With climate change, An Dinh, the area in the ancient city with most number of heritage houses, is likely to suffer more. A UN-Habitat vulnerability assessment report published in 2014 predicts that the all of An Dinh could be flooded by 2020. If we want to save Hoi An, and cities like Hoi An, countries need to work together to develop technology and mechanisms to tackle the effects of climate change and hazards associated with it.
Cartagena in Colombia is yet another city we may lose to climate change. Founded in 1533, this historic centre is home to many museums and historical sites, and also boasts of having World Heritage Site status. However, owing to its low-lying coastal location, it is also one of the most vulnerable Caribbean coastal cities. From 1993 to 2010, sea-level in the Caribbean basin has risen by 2.5 mm every year. Scientists say that if things don’t change, the sea-level at Cartagena could rise by as much as 60 centimetres by 2040, affecting more than 25 percent of the population.
In a 2015 report, the World Bank said that climate change hits the poor the hardest since they depend heavily on agricultural produce not just for food, but also for their source of income. The report also made a prediction on the economic implications of climate change. It said that if policies aren’t made keeping climate change and its effects- such as rising seas and extreme weather- in mind a 100 million more could be pushed into poverty by 2030. Add this number to the estimated 900 million who will be driven into extreme poverty by slow development, and the picture gets truly dismal.
Even today, one in five people are living without electricity. Three billion people still rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste for cooking and heating. For the world to become more energy efficient and consequently environment-friendly, it is necessary to not only make energy resources more affordable for the poor, but also encourage everyone to use renewable sources of energy.
Climate change is a real threat, one that scientists have been warning us about for a long time. It is time now to take these predictions seriously. The estimates, in themselves, can make one wonder if tackling climate change is even possible. The answer to the question is – YES. If the global community comes together to act, things can definitely change. In fact, keeping these things in mind leaders from across the world have committed to attaining 17 global goals for sustainable development by 2030. Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact, is in fact, an important goal under the SDGs and one that all countries need to work towards to not only address the threat of climate change, but also deliver on the opportunity of combating it. By holding our governments accountable to act on the goals, we too can play an active role in saving the planet.
If, however, we don’t do anything knowing all that we do, we will only have ourselves to blame. After all, if human beings have caused all this damage, isn’t it our responsibility to fix it as well?