The son shall not bear responsibility for the sins of the father, they say, but climate change would beg to differ.
The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, is set to take place in Glasgow on October 31st to November 12th. With the COP26 around the corner we have been truly inundated by increasingly sobering reports that detail nothing short of a doomed future. For me though, this one report from the Chatham House takes the cake. The report titled “Climate change risk assessment 2021” warns of the dangers of straying from the Paris Agreement goals, and approaches the issue from an aspect that I feel that is not stressed enough for the general public: the maths of climate change and the cascading effects.
The Cascading Effects
Cascading effect is not a term exclusive to the climate change. It refers to what is basically a chain of disasters and anomalies in a system, triggered by the development of a specific event. Nonetheless, it is quite difficult to pinpoint the exact effects or their magnitude. The cascading effects in a climate change context range from extreme weather events, droughts, synchronous crop failures to the rise of sea levels.
Yes, synchronous crop failure is a thing and there will be a 40% chance of it occurring every year by 2040. The world requires increased sustenance yields, and it will inevitably require even more in the future as the world population increases disproportionately. However, with a 40% chance of global synchronous crop failure happening each year, yields will be decreased dramatically. The cascading effects will be coming for all natural and artificial systems possible, and none will be spared. This will impact the functionality of ecosystems, cities, relevant social systems, economies, and governance, etc.
The Maths of Climate Change
We are all reminded of the possibility of such risks being brought on by climate change in the coming decades on an almost daily basis through all forms of media. Yet, we do not see what is perhaps the most crucial part: the maths behind it. I would like to remind you of parabolic equations, where small changes most likely equate to extreme differences in results. The maths behind climate change and cascading effects in particular work on the basis of such equations.
According to the CH report, the parties to the Paris Agreement have a less than 1% possibility of reaching the target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. There is also less than a 5% chance of reaching a 2°C increase. The current estimates point towards a 2.7°C climb in temperature by 2030, which the former UN Secretary-General Guterres has previously deemed “catastrophic”. However, even a 5°C increase also remains a possibility. A National Geographic short video focuses on the potentiality of the world becoming 5°C warmer, to the point where “civilization collapses”.
Don’t Entrust the Future to Us, Do It Yourself
How often do we see the images of poor polar bears stranded on floating pieces of perilously small ice floes? Or the occasional image of glaciers melting and disintegrating? Truly stirring, I would admit, and yet without much substance. Climate change has been on the global agenda for ages, more than just several decades. Amongst the many treaties signed are the unfortunate Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The citizens of Earth are called upon every day to reduce their CO2 emissions. To turn off the lights, to use less water, maybe not apply as much deodorant, plant a tree or five, to appreciate the lions while they are still here because they are most definitely going extinct.
The world leaders never hesitate to entrust this fragile future to the younger generations. Yet, these generations are not yet in decision-making positions. They will not be there, until we are all past the point of no return. The inaction of today will cost young people tomorrow, long after these leaders and their entire generations have returned to the earth. There is no sense in entrusting the future to us young people if the people in actual positions of power do not act on a meaningful scale today. We will basically bear the sins of past generations that were too busy bickering about financial and political gains to actually do something about it.
Numbers Have More Substance Than Polar Bears
No, I don’t mean to undermine the noble struggle of polar bears. However, the least that should be done is to raise more awareness and actually expose people to the sheer terror that is the cascading effects, instead of handing over the problem to future generations and flooding all channels with images intended for agitation. Frankly, the mainstream media has to curate their content better. Why not give the spotlight to such reports delving into numbers and give us all existential dread on a good weekend? People must come face to face with numbers and possibilities to truly comprehend the calamity that will be the cascading effects if drastic action on a global scale is not taken immediately. Broader coverage may stir more and more people to act – each in their own capacity, of course. After all, apart from becoming the next Greta Thunberg, voting is also quite a significant incentive for world leaders that currently seem to be tragically struggling to make meaningful decisions and stick to them.
Don’t be shy, give us the numbers, give us some substance.