Words by Bonnie Bryson Art by Kristen Wynne
We live in a world where heatwaves and wildfires are common place, where an island is sinking in the pacific, where floods are normal, yet some people still deny the existence of climate change. How? I have no clue.
The Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by 0.9 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, “show Greenland lost an average of 281 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016, while Antarctica lost about 119 billion tons during the same time period. The rate of Antarctic ice mass loss has tripled in the last decade”.
The global sea level has risen by about nineteen centimetres in the past century, and it’s only speeding up. The ocean is absorbing much of the excess carbon dioxide that humans are putting into the air, which is causing ocean acidification. The acidity of the ocean has increased by around 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which is having devastating impacts on our marine life and coral reefs. We can visibly see the effects of climate change, whether it be through melting ice caps, quicker snow seasons, an increase in extremity of natural disasters or very obvious rising sea levels.
Over the past few months there have been more major natural disasters than you could count on one hand. Heatwaves all over the world, spreading over Asia and Europe, with many countries having their hottest years on record. Wildfires in California, Greece, Sweden, UK, Portugal and more. Floods followed quickly by severe heatwaves which killed over 60 people in Japan. Wildfires in Greece have left more than 90 dead. Thousands of hectares of land have been burnt in Sweden. The root of all these tragic events? Climate change.
It is true that natural disasters can and do occur for reasons not concerning climate change, and it is hard to say that the disaster itself began because of global warming. However, it most definitely can be said that climate change far worsened the conditions and severity of many natural disasters. For example, this year Greece was having one of its hottest, driest summers yet, and this was largely due to climate change. Strong winds coming from the Arctic fanned the flames faster than ever before.
Similarly to Greece, this year Japan has suffered through deadly floods and heatwaves. In July the country endured terrible landslides and floods, causing the deaths of over 200 people. To make matters worse, shortly after the floods, a deadly heatwave struck the nation, causing the deaths of over 60 people.
Kiribati, a large group of islands in the pacific, is being slowly engulfed by water due to climate change. The group of 33 islands which is inhabited by 112,850 people is seeing devastating effects. Much of their farmland is being negatively impacted due to rising sea levels, the salt water intrusion and loss of coastal land has resulted in less fertile crops. To make matters worse, the changing climate makes Kiribati more vulnerable to drought, which is especially devastating when their primary agricultural export is coconuts, which require large amounts of rainfall. The rising sea levels are also causing coastal erosion which has forced thousands to move inland, but this is only a temporary solution as the island is still eroding each day.
Associate Professor Dietmar Dommenget of the Monash University School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment stated that “the evidence of climate change is so overwhelming. You can’t deny it … It would be like denying that the Earth is a sphere, not flat. It’s ridiculous.”
The evidence of climate change is so obvious and vast, that no one can deny its existence. We know that our carbon emissions are having terrible, devastating impacts on the planet. Yet we still remain ignorant. Steps towards a greener world are being made, but more needs to be done. As a regular citizen, you may feel helpless, but there are so many things that you could do. Recycle all your rubbish, use public transport or ride a bike, try not to waste food or water, use your electricity responsibly, and perhaps most importantly, send a letter to your local MP and let them know that you care about climate change. It is going to be a very hard, uphill battle to reduce carbon emissions and stop climate change, but it is a battle we have to face.