Inaction Against Climate Change
Climate change is happening now.
Yes, now. Global warming is increasing and it’s already affecting the world. Severe heatwaves have sparked wildfires in Greece and California. The Indian state, Kerala, recently suffered unprecedented monsoonal flooding. Australia is suffering from a prolonged drought, which will be exacerbated by the oncoming summer.
Dr Andrew King, a Climate Extremes Research Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, predicts more weather extremes are coming.
As much we want to deny that, long-term forecasts are based on sophisticated computer models. “Although there’s uncertainty in forecasting, given what we’ve seen in the real world, we compare what has happened in the real world with what our models think should have happened they match up fairly well,” Dr King says.
The Paris Agreement…and not much else…
With global warming rapidly increasing, action is desperately needed. In 2015 politicians gathered to create the Paris Climate Agreement. It aims to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by binding governments through ‘nationally determined contributions’ against climate change. Primarily by reducing greenhouse gas emissions which absorb heat. Progress will be reviewed every five years.
Are we doing enough against climate change?
No, not even close.
“To be honest it’s more likely that we’re going for more than 2°C [above pre-industrial levels] as well. We are not doing anywhere near enough to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to get close to limiting to 2°C,” Dr King says.
A study led by Dr Sophie Lewis, a former Research Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, showed that not only climate change is associated with increased summer temperatures, but it’s exacerbating them too.
“Melbourne and Sydney can expect to see 50°C summer days,” Dr King says.
So, why aren’t we doing enough against climate change?
Climate Change: A slow and deadly beast
Unlike military wars and popularity polls, climate change runs on a larger timescale. So slow, that we’re already acclimatised to it. “People born in the 1980s and 1990s have never experienced have never experienced a globally…below average temperatures,” Dr King says.
Climate change is creeping up on us so slowly that we can feasibly ignore it…until it’s too late.
Scientific ignorance and inaction aren’t bliss
It’s not only the physical environment that’s deteriorating, so is the political environment.
Anti-intellectualism is growing. Last year, President Donald Trump stated his intention to pull the USA out of the Paris Agreement, apparently on the basis that it is economically detrimental to the country. However, Donald Trumps’ infamous climate change denial tweets show some scientific ignorance.
Scientific literacy isn’t useful if political agendas impede it. Recently, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had abandoned emissions target legislation to reduce greenhouse gasses. It was a last-ditch effort to avoid a leadership spill from warring factions within his party.
We need to be scientifically literate in order to make decisions about science. We don’t have the option of denying climate change’s existence, because it is our reality. It’s already been rigorously tested and investigated by objective parameters. By being scientifically literate we can make well-informed decisions to enact change. We need to do it soon before global warming becomes irreversible.
“It would be good to try to limit global warming to below 2°C. We know that the risk of reaching some of these tipping points is positive feedback.”
“At the moment we’re on track for about 3°C of global warming, ” Dr King says.
What’s truly important, power games or protecting our home?