I'm Phoebe the polar bear and this is my little cub Poppy. We live in the northern most part of the earth, in the Artic circle, on the island of Greenland and love to spend our days roaming on the sea ice and swimming in the cold arctic waters in search of our favourite food, seals.
You've probably seen us polar bears as a symbol for the negative effects of climate change before. Our habitat may be far away from where most people live but it's hugely affected by the warming of the earth caused by human activity. Our ice sheets are melting like never before and it's becoming so difficult to find food and places to rest. Polar bears are in decline and our survival over the next years is really at risk. Please don't look away and ignore the reality which all of us living beings are facing - the time to act is now!
Whats the Story?
Since the start of the industrial revolution over 200 years ago, fossil fuels, including oil, coal and natural gas have been our main sources of energy. They enable us to heat our homes, provide us with electricity, run our vehicles and power industry and manufacturing. These precious resources are formed when organic matter like plants and animals that are buried under the surface of the earth for hundreds of millions of years, undergo decomposition under high temperature and pressure. Despite developments in renewable energy sources, over 75% of energy used in the developed world today, still come from fossil fuels.
The two main problems with our dependence on fossil fuels are:
Fossil fuels are extracted at enormous ecological and financial cost and when burned for energy, they emit greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), which pollute the air and warm the earth (known as global warming or climate change/crisis).
Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy as they are derived from pre-historic fossils. Fossil fuels are finite, once they are gone they are gone and at current consumption rates we are quickly steering towards their depletion.
Instead of preserving these finite gifts from nature, for critical use and for future generations, we are continuing to burn them like there is no tomorrow. This wasteful, careless, short-term approach continues despite the knowledge that we are in the midst of an ecological disaster and that it will leave future generations without them.
The excellent book Come On describes how we used to live in an empty world and now we are living in a full world, where human population, and our demand for natural resources at all cost is destroying natures delicate balance of life.
Greenhouse gas emissions
We burn fossil fuels for energy, and when we do so we emit greenhouse gasses into the air. Greenhouse gases consist of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases. The burning of fossil fuels cause the greenhouse effect where over time build up in the earths atmosphere. Thsimilar to a blanket wrapped around the earth that prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere and thereby warming the planet.
Data Source: IPCC (2014) based on global emissions from 2010
If anyone was in doubt, about climate change just look at the graph below. Greenhouse gas emissions have grown exponentially over the past 50 years, particularly CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels for energy. The extraction and burning of fossil fuels has created substantial corporate and personal wealth at the expense of the earths natural resources, the rest of the global population and the biosphere.
According to the IPCC report 2018 we have just 11 years left to reduce our Greenhouse Gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and then to zero by 2050 to avoid an irreversible chain of events beyond our control.
Carbon dioxide levels over the past 400,000 years have never been over 310 ppm. The graph below shows how since the 1950's the levels of carbon dioxide have proliferated due to industrialisation, mechanisation, transportation and technology. In order for the planet to remain in balance, we need to be back at 350 ppm level. We are currently over 411 ppm.
Add video clip fro ecological footprint.org
For hundreds of thousands of years atmospheric C02 had never been above this line
Data Source: NASA - Global Climate Change
The science and the facts are clear but yet almost nothing has been done in over past 30 years since. Many of us prefer to ignore ecological disaster and climate change, disassociate ourselves from the realities of needing to change our own lifestyles. Understandably many of us feel helplessness, wondering how making changes to our personal lives will make any difference at all. The fear is causing many of us to suffer from Eco Anxiety. Some people perhaps feel a certain level of ‘safety’ being in certain parts of the world where the impact is seen to be less and more manageable. In reality there is no hiding place.
The impact of climate change is already happening globally. We see the effects of ice melting (the arctic is estimated to be ice free in the summer of 2050), polluted acidic oceans (acidity has increase by 30% in the last 200 years), coral reef dead zones, un-bearable heat waves, droughts, erratic storms, flooding, forest fires, habitat and species loss.
“Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."
There is no time left to wait for politicians, institutions or corporations to act, or hope for a last minute technological breakthrough to magically sink or deflect greenhouse emissions. We can act now and there are many great example of changes being made....
The current global economic and transport systems are almost entirely dependant upon fossil fuels which makes us extremely vulnerable in the event of their failure. Western, rich countries have outsourced so much of our daily lives that most of our behaviours depends upon global systems for function and survival. What happens when disruptions to these systems occur due to climate change or fail completely?
We can safeguard ourselves by rethinking our futures by becoming much more resilient/ prepared in light of the inevitable and unpredictable changes that climate change will bring. We need to look for greener solutions in every aspect of our personal lives.
An article by ..... estimated that we have 500 Giga-tonnes of carbon left to burn before we reach the 1.5 degrees global warming limit set over the next 30 years. We currently burn 50 Giga-tonnes per year. This means we have 10 years left to hit that maximum! Estimates show that we are already around 0.9 degrees above pre industrial levels (1850's) and even if all emissions miraculously stopped today the earth would still warm by another +0.8 degrees because of the lag in CO2 in the atmosphere from today.
It means radically reducing individual emission (western world) by as much as 85%. Of course, this is automatically associated with negativity, we don’t like it when things are taken away from us, the more we have the more we expect but what if this is beginning of something so much better. “Be the change quote”
Imagine the future & believe
Imagine a world with cleaner air and water, cities are greener, wildlife and ecosystems are thriving, habitats and forests are flourishing. Imagine local communities supporting each other, creating innovative solutions to problems. Imagine the physiological benefits of our health and wellbeing when we have a chance to slow-down, rethink, and re-energize and connect with nature. Imagine no more unnecessary harm to animals through adopting veganism. Imagine leaving behind the frantic fast paced, stressful modern lifestyle where people are on the verge of burnout to a more balanced way of living in harmony with the rhythm of nature. Imagine reducing the wealth divide between and redistributing wealth with an economic structure focusing on local and not global.
The climate crisis and ecological breakdown has given us this opportunity. We have the chance to change our direction now, learn from our mistakes and make a greener, fairer and better world for all.
In order to make this revolutionary leap we need to look at the world through a totally different lens. In order to do so we need to reconnect with our inner selves and ultimately with nature and learn to respect, protect and cherish the planet we are so fortunate to call our home.
Inequality of carbon emissions: the wealthiest 10% of the population are responsible for 50% of lifestyle consumption emissions.
We need to be informed, read and educate ourselves and be prepared to to question and challenge the norm and change our paradigm towards an amazing new era of a green revolution.
"We live at a time when emotions and feelings count more than truth, and there is a vast ignorance of science".
Polo & pip recommend: