Global Warming: Code Red

by Ella Dunthorne

1 September 2021

A recent United Nations scientific report has been described by the UN chief as “code red for humanity”. [1] The research tells us about an increase in more extreme heatwaves, droughts and floods on the horizon, with a major temperature limit being broken in close to a decade.

The IPCC report has shown that:

  • The Earth’s surface temperature was 1.09C more in the period between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
  • The current rate of sea level rise has almost tripled when compared with the levels between 1901-1971.

What is climate change?

To put it simply, the Earth is in a time of rapid climate change and global temperatures are on the rise due to human activities, including burning coal, oil and gas. [2] According to NASA, the phrases “global warming” and “climate change” are sometimes used similarly. But, “global warming” is only one part of climate change. Global warming is about the long-term warming of the planet. Earth’s temperature has been increasing since ‘the early 20th century’. [3]

A recent history of global warming

Before the mid 1960s, geoscientists thought that our climate could only change gradually, within timescales of thousands of years or longer. Evidence from ice and sediment cores showed something very different. The world’s climate has altered at a rapid pace in the past. Sometimes, within decades. Our realisation that Earth’s climate could change within our lifetime resulted in an increase in scientific and political interest.

Since 1960, we have had the knowledge that we ‘were increasing the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere’. But, what impact would this have on the future? Scientists also ‘knew that our emissions of aerosols might cool the Earth’. Which of these would happen? According to NASA , a 1979 study of carbon dioxide’s role in the climate found “no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.” [4]

In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created to discuss and assess evidence about climate change. Just one year later, Margaret Thatcher, the UK Prime Minister, asked for a global treaty about climate change. Since the year 1990, IPCC continued to produce reports about the global temperature, warning us about the future.

Throughout the 2000s, political leaders pledged to prioritise and engage with the world on climate change including: UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2005 and Barack Obama in 2008. Despite a widespread knowledge of climate change, in 2009, China became the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, overtaking the United States.

In 2011, research showed that concentrations of greenhouse gases were increasing more rapidly than previously and, just 2 years later, IPCC’s report confirmed that scientists were 95% sure that humans are the ‘dominant cause’ of global warming since the 1950s. [5]

In 2019, teen activist, Greta Thunberg spoke at the UN Climate Summit, addressing world leaders. She told them that, “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say – we will never forgive you.” [6]

What is the impact of global warming on future generations?

Weather and ecosystem changes, caused by global warming, will impact people directly. Those who live in poor countries or in coastal areas will be hit the hardest. When tropical temperature zones spread, diseases like malaria will be able to reach more people globally. Rising sea levels and more extreme weather, such as heavy rains and hurricanes, will result in extensive flooding, house damage or even loss of life.

An increase in the summer climate and fires will mean there will be more cases of deaths and heat strokes with an increased level of smoke, leading to periods of ‘code red’ air quality. Malnutrition is another factor to consider brought on by extreme droughts. Obtaining fresh drinking water will become more difficult too, particularly in the summer months, when mountain glaciers will no longer exist. [7]

What are we planning to do about global warming?

The BBC reported that, nearly every nation in the world signed up to the aims of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. This aims to ensure that the rise in global temperatures stays significantly below 2 degrees celsuis this century.

Scientists are hoping that ‘if we can cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by the middle of this century, we can halt and possibly reverse the rise in temperatures’. [8]

To reach net zero, we will need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions significantly. The BBC suggests that we can do this by using clean technology, burying releases or absorbing them by growing trees.

Green Peace advises that we need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. That governments and companies need to invest in lower carbon transport options. They also urge us to stop demolishing forests and to improve the situation by planting hundreds of millions more trees. We need to make ocean sanctuaries so that sea life can thrive without the dangers of industrial fishing too. [9]

We need to take global action to stop this crisis from destroying the planet and the lives of future generations. Now is the time for change, not tomorrow.

Because, what we’ve realised is, the future is ours whether we like it or not.

Here are some environmental charities Givey supports:

  • Environment Matters 247 – is a registered environment and heritage charity based in London who run local volunteer projects that bring people together to look after and enjoy the natural environment, green spaces and built heritage. https://www.givey.com/environmentmatters247
  • Green Paw Project – is a UK charity committed to the welfare of animals, environmental conservation, rewilding of lands, planting trees, carbon sequestration, human reconnection to the natural world, and the cleaning of plastic and waste on our planet. https://www.givey.com/greenpawprojectanimalwelfarecharity
  • The Green Team – aims to provide transformational outdoor experiences which connect children and young people to nature, themselves and others. https://www.givey.com/greenteamedinburgh
  • Brighton Peace and Environment Centre – inspires, educates and connects people, communities and organisations to understand how their own lives and actions link with those of others, and finds ways to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. https://www.givey.com/brightonpeaceandenvironmentcentre

References:

[1 & 8] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58130705

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24021772

[3] https://climate.nasa.gov/faq/12/whats-the-difference-between-climate-change-and-global-warming/

[4]  https://climate.nasa.gov/nasa_science/history/

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15874560

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/49812183

[7]  https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/GlobalWarming

[9] https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/challenges/climate-change/  

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