By Bella Natale @ GreenBlue
June 2, 2021
WHAT IF? WHAT IF OUR WORST FEARS OF RISING TEMPERATURES BECAME A REALITY? AND HOW FAR ARE WE FROM ACTUALLY SEEING THESE FEARS COME TO REALITY?
So, what if? Well, let’s take a step back and focus on our current trajectory. We are already seeing the global temperature rising before our eyes, “more than half of the carbon humanity has exhaled into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decade”. Intense wildfires, flooded coastlines, melted permafrost, shrinking glaciers, extreme natural disasters, ocean acidification, the list goes on and on, and this is only the beginning. Human complacency is still overshadowing these impacts. Since climate change is slow-moving, indirect, and impersonal, humans are struggling to understand and act on the urgency of this crisis.
Staying on our path now, what realities do we have to look out for, according to David Wallace-Wells?
Hunger. The United Nations estimates by 2050, the planet will need to grow twice the amount of food to feed the growing population, and have half the amount of grain to give them. Proteins will be heavily impacted, as well, since it takes 16 calories of grain to produce one calorie of hamburger meat, not to mention the cattle’s impact polluting the climate with methane.1 With increased droughts, soil is disappearing, the rate of erosion in the U.S. is ten times as high as the natural replenishment rate3. Increased temperatures will cause people to relocate their farms, which isn’t easy to do. The yields produced in certain areas are limited by the quality of their soil; it takes many centuries for the planet to produce optimally fertile dirt.3 This means less food, less usable land, higher malnourishment rates, and less nutrient-dense food.
Drowning. “Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice the amount currently in the atmosphere. This carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful than CO2, but on the timescale of two decades it is 86 times more powerful”.1 And in addition to this, we can see the real-time impact of uncontrollable acceleration with ice melting. This is called the Albedo effect, which is when melting ice leads to less sunlight being reflected, thus more heat is absorbed, more cloud coverage which traps Greenhouse Gasses, and less flora and forests which are CO2 absorbers. Carbon emitted will rapidly increase, due to all of these contributing factors.
Sickness. “There are now, trapped in Arctic ice, diseases that have not circulated in the air for millions of years — in some cases, since before humans were around to encounter them. Which means our immune systems would have no idea how to fight back when those prehistoric plagues emerge from the ice”.1 This is starting to unfold, a boy was killed and 20 others infected by anthrax released when retreating permafrost exposed the frozen carcass of a reindeer, the bacteria found was estimated to be at least 75 years old. Covid-19 has already given the world a grim reality to what a pandemic is capable of, and this virus is a variant of a virus strand humans have been familiarized with, SARS. Other diseases beneath the ice may be alien to us.
Poisoned Oceans. In addition to the four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century, we will also see increased ocean temperatures, coral bleaching, and ocean acidification.1 More than one fourth of carbon emitted by humans is absorbed by the ocean, and with the increased temperatures of the ocean and decreased marine life, dead zones are growing in size. Direct pollutants and emissions are causing dead zones, which are areas that suffocate marine life and wipe out fisheries.1 This means humans will be displaced from their homes, less marine life will survive, more floods, less food, and less jobs.
This is not something that is going to go away, if we choose not to think about it. The only way to change our trajectory is to change our mindset and actions. This threat to humanity is real, it is happening now, as we speak. The gap between best and worst case scenarios is shrinking, and it is only a matter of time before the acceleration of climate change is out of our control. There is hope, we figured out a way into this mess, and we can figure a way out, but we need to act now. Fighting climate change is urgent and “[n]o plausible program of emissions reduction alone can prevent the climate disaster”.1 We all need to work together to get this crisis under control and do our part.
What we do know is methane is a significant short-term player and this is why CH4 Global, Inc. is committed to mitigating the methane emissions being released into our atmosphere, creating a viable solution to our short-term problem. According to the Global Methane Assessment, released by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the United Nations, reducing methane emissions, the main component of natural gas, will play a vital role changing our current trajectory. Since methane is a short-lived gas, “...cutting new methane emissions today, and starting to reduce methane concentrations in the atmosphere, could more quickly help the world meet its mid century targets for fighting global warming”. This report disclosed that methane emissions can be cut by 45% this decade, which would avoid 0.3°C of global warming by 2045.6 This gas has a significantly stronger impact than carbon in the short-term, and reducing this gas will buy the world more time to figure out additional methods to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the second half of the century. Using the seaweed, Asparagopsis taxiformis and Asparagopsis armata, CH4 Global is on an urgent mission to create an aquaculture ecosystem to slash methane emissions from ruminant livestock up to 98%. There is hope, reducing methane today provides us with benefits and time in the future.
This is their action, what is yours?
Bella is a Marketing Associate at the environmental nonprofit, GreenBlue. Her work pertains to spreading the use of sustainable materials in society. She is passionate about mitigating the impact of climate change through educating others about social and environmental issues. She holds a B.S. in Marketing from Bentley University.
David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth Life After Warming (New York, Tim Duggan Books, 2019), 49-59
David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth Life After Warming (New York, Tim Duggan Books, 2019), 59-70
David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth Life After Warming (New York, Tim Duggan Books, 2019), 109-115