With World Vegan day approaching and Viva! asking everyone to go vegan, we ask What Is Climate Change, Anyway?
So you know that we are suffering with climate change and we should be turning to solar and wind power (or should we? more on that later). And you know that the poor little Swedish girl keeps crying, because she is appalled that the adults have messed up her future. And you know that the ice caps are melting.
But what do you really know? Nobody expects us to become climate scientists. But it does help to have a little idea about what is going on. So here is a super-simple newbie guide to what climate change is, why it matters and what we can do in small bits, to make a big difference.
The polar ice caps are at an all-time high: the polar bear population has never been stronger says Donald Trump. In fact, Polar Bears International (who likely knows more than him) says that polar bears depend on the sea ice surface to catch seal prey, and the reduction of ice is leading to lower survival rate of cubs.
Without firm sea ice, there is no doubt that polar bears will disappear. Without greenhouse gas mitigation, ice will continue to melt, so it’s physics that polar bears could soon be extinct.
What is climate change?
Climate change simply refers to a long-term change in the world’s weather and rising temperatures. This can also give rise to storms and freak weather, which is why Donald Trump does not believe in climate change, because sometimes there is snow or flooding?! Things can create greenhouses gases (that lead to the gases that are causing the issues) including fossil fuels (coal, gas) and factory farming (methane emissions from billions of animals used for meat and dairy). These reasons cause a blanket of gas to wrap around the planet, which traps the sun’s heat and warms up the earth, beyond what is natural.
This has huge consequences. Not just from rising temperatures. Climate change leads to animals migrating at different times (which can lead to them not finding the food they need) to coral reefs being bleached, to higher rates of skin cancer. And of course, the melting ice caps lead to polar bear starvation and rising sea levels, which could lead to mass floods and tsunamis. It really is as catastrophic as Greta says it is.
What about wind and solar power?
This is not the solution, it just helps a little. The solution is to stop constant economic growth. Many environmentalists have become disillusioned by industry simply replacing one type of fuel for another. Unless we live simply and use far less fuel altogether, fields will continue to be raped by installing massive solar and wind farms, and corporate greed will continue.
The government wants to build 10,000 new wind turbines across Britain by 2020. Does this sound very ‘green’ to you? To me it sounds like a society fixated on going about its destructive business in much the same way as ever, only without the carbon. When we clamour for more wind power stations in the wilderness, we are helping to power the machine: growth can continue forever, our lives can go on much as they always have. In the end, climate change presents us with a simple question: are we going to live within our means, or are we going to collapse? All the technology in the world will not answer it (Paul Kingsnorth, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist.)
How is climate change affecting England?
Friends of the Earth have an excellent page on this. Some of the things already happening (or due to happen soon) include:
- Norfolk is sliding into the sea. Dozens of houses have already gone, due to coastal erosion
- Many farms had heatwaves, harming wildlife and increasing wildlife risk
- Parts of Yorkshire and Somerset have flooded. People were evacuated by boat.
- Seabirds are vanishing around the North Sea and Scotland (puffins, terns, kittiwakes)
- A storm toppled a stretch of sea wall, taking a railway track away to sea.
Answers to climate change deniers
There can’t be climate change, because it’s cold! Climate change causes extreme weather, rather than hot weather. So expect more hurricanes, storms and floods, not just heatwaves. In fact, climate change will cause more rain in the UK and Ireland, and New York will get more snow (hence Donald Trump’s remark that it was snowing in New York, so it’s all made up!)
There is no need to be alarmist. Experts (real ones in Antarctica who search miles into the ground to examine temperatures) say that we have just over 10 years, before basically, we’re stuffed. We need to limit global warming to 1.5C rise, or else many of us will go underwater. That’s why Greta and her friends are being ‘dramatic’.
It’s all a conspiracy. By who? Donald Trump says it’s so that China can make money from renewables and other industry. But those who genuinely are stopping climate change are not in favour of industrialisation at all. Nobody in the know wants to make profit from promoting the climate change theory:
Climate change is a hoax by anti-industrialist hippies. Many organisations (including oil companies BP and Shell) don’t think it’s a hoax and are even trying to do their bit to help reduce fossil fuel emissions.
How we can stop climate change?
It’s not even that sure whether we can anymore, as big business and government are not listening. Tearing down the Amazon rainforest (and buying palm oil, which brings down more forests and kills orangutans) means there is less oxygen and more carbon dioxide, which makes things even worse.
Supermarkets say things like ‘we are members of the round-table on sustainable palm oil’ or ‘we are trying to cut our plastic use’ (plastic comes from oil). None of it is good or fast enough.
Climate Change: Simple Things To Make a Difference is a nice little guide on recycled paper, listing 100 simple ways you can help. All the tips are quick and simple from buying local food, insulating your loft, recycling and composting, taking the train, getting on your bike and saving on bills.
Here are the 9 best ways to stop climate change:
- Eat plant foods. Go Vegan Now!
- Use less energy.
- Use green energy.
- Drive less.
- Switch to green banks.
- Live simply.
- Take the train over planes.
- Start a Transition Town.
- Vote Green!
Climate change deniers don’t help
One sad thing about our celebrity culture, is that people are listening to ‘celebrity climate change deniers’ (ie. we know it exists, but it’s nothing much to worry about) over concerned scientists who know a lot more than any of us do. In an article for The Guardian, Bill McGuire sums it up well:
“One of the most irritating things that climate scientists have to put up with these days, is the bombardment of what I call ‘bollockspeak’ from scientifically illiterate celebrity deniers, hiding behind their pulpits in the national press.” (Bill McGuire, Emeritus Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards, University College London)