The greatest issue for our generation: Global warming and the environment

10 Apr 2014

Last summer, I watched a three hour documentary about the hypothetical future of our planet. It used CGI and actors to show what Earth would look like and the problems that we would face. It predicted that with the way we are going, and the unprecedented levels of natural resources that we consume, by the year 2100 human civilization, as we know it, will no longer exist. Now this may seem like extreme exaggeration, or fear mongering, but scientists largely agree. Most argue that although Earth itself will recover we, if we carry on the way we are, may not. 


Some experts believe that by the year 2056 the world’s temperature will have increased by 3C; this is something that will have devastating effects. Methane will be released from the Arctic, which is 70 times stronger than CO2. The areas that will be most hard hit include: Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. For example, both Pakistan and India will be devastated. According to futurologists, Pakistan will by this time be a failed state, with local gangs trying to seize what little remains. Within Europe, food riots will be a norm, with Britain now having a Mediterranean climate. Moreover, southern and central Europe would have temperatures similar to that of today’s Middle East and North Africa. Arguably most shockingly, it is predicted that by the 2030’s the Arctic will be ice-free - the rise in sea levels creating floods on an unprecedented scale. 

It cannot be underestimated how much of an impact this will have on the socio-political sphere. Countries could be at the brink of war over resources that we today take for granted, most notably water. Due to mass displacement it has also been predicted that whole countries will become shantytowns – coming to be known as the ‘fourth world’. Indeed, futurologists have predicted that by 2050 there will be 150 million climate refugees, a six-fold increase from 2010. This will also have an impact on democracy. Whereas countries within the Middle East and North Africa are now attempting to move towards democracy, it has been said that due to environmental disasters, autocracies and dictators will be able to make a comeback. 

Yet, this doesn’t have to be the case. If governments are able to assemble their efforts now, to sort out these problems- like for example through the Kyoto agreements and the Stockholm conference- then we may be able to stop global warming before it’s too late. However, although it seems to me that many politicians are vocal about battling climate change, few seem to be doing anything about it. For example, David Cameron recently stated at PMQs that he believes ‘Man made climate change is the greatest threat Britain and the rest of the world face.’ But members of his Cabinet seem to disagree. George Osborne recently told business leaders in Hong Kong that although global warming is happening, it should be dealt with as ‘cheaply as possible’. This isn’t the correct way to go about tackling the ‘greatest threat’ civilization faces.

All governments around the world should be working together to stop global climate change. It is not unprecedented for countries to work together, all we need to look at is the recent missing Malaysian plane, which to date has forced 25 countries to work together; including China and Japan. We have a United Nations, surely it is time that it starts working together in order to stop an inevitable break down of the society that we now live in. 

After all, never in human history have we used as much energy from fossil fuels. This is highlighted by a startling statistic: All of human history pre-1900 did not use as much energy as 1900-2014. Indeed, it is estimated that fossil fuel energy converted into human muscle power would mean that on a 24 hour basis an average human would need 20 slaves in order to perform the same tasks. Individuals just in the Western world would need 70. This isn’t sustainable, and it must be stopped. My generation cannot face the burden alone, by then it will most probably be too late, change needs to start now- it needs to start today. 

By Olivia Gordon

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