Jess Bacon explores five common global warming myths – and reveals the truth behind them.
Fires, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis have all become more frequent in recent years, but the mega blaze that has engulfed a quarter of Australia is evidence of the ever-growing threat of climate change. The world is literally on fire, and climate change is to blame. Yet, often individuals are still misinformed about this global issue. Scientists have warned that the Earth has been getting rapidly warmer over the past few years due to human activity. One example is the burning of fossil fuels, which produces greenhouse gases that sit in the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, the planet’s temperature and sea levels have risen and continue to increase.
Here, five common global warming myths are examined to expose the truth behind them.
‘I live in the UK, the ice caps melting doesn’t affect me’
Over 10,000 miles away in Antarctica the ice is melting, causing sea levels to rise. It can be easy to ignore the repercussions of this as currently it has little threat to day-to-day life in the UK, but eventually it will.
Climate Central predicted that by 2100, 5.4 million people would face annual flooding if the carbon emissions remain unchecked. Many cities, including Cardiff, Peterborough, Hull, Lancaster, Liverpool as well as the Norfolk coast could be submerged in water in just 80 years time, unless urgent action is taken.
London is also vulnerable. The Independent found that with sea levels rising, the Thames barrier, London’s primary flood defence, is being used up to six or seven times a year. When the barrier was constructed in 1984, it was predicted to be used two or three times a year. Sea levels are predicted to rise by over 40cm unless countries manage to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C.
‘Will going vegan really make a difference?’
Our World in Data outlined that food production is responsible for 26 per cent of carbon emissions and animal products are responsible for half of that statistic. The majority of animal emissions are from the production of beef and lamb.
Veganuary estimated that an individual in their lifetime will eat up to 7,000 animals. By choosing a vegan diet, a staggering amount of animals are saved from being bred for slaughter in turn reducing the market’s carbon output. As the demand decreases so will the supply. In 2016, the UK sales of fresh meat declined by £328 million, fresh milk by £54 million and cheese by £73 million, yet there were only around half a million vegans in the UK. One person living a vegan lifestyle will lower their own carbon output and as more people take up a vegan diet the amount of carbon from meat produced, eaten and farmed will also decrease.
‘Is one plastic bottle of water really that bad?’
Plastic is usually derived from materials made from fossil fuels such as ethylene and propylene. To extract and transport those fuels and manufacture plastic creates tonnes of carbon; four per cent of the world’s yearly petroleum production is from making plastic. Then, the plastic is used in a product and discarded.
The WWF documented that Australia creates three tonnes of plastic a year and 95 per cent is thrown away after a single-use and only 12 per cent is recycled. In order to reduce the amount of plastic produced, plastic must stop being used and wasted. By 2050, The Guardian noted, it is estimated that plastic production will have tripled and be responsible for 13 per cent of our planet’s total carbon budget the equivalent of 615 power stations.
The effect of plastic on greenhouse gases has been overlooked, with the main drive to reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans, otherwise by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Yet plastic should also be associated with fossil fuels and labelled as one of the major contributors to carbon emissions as 99 per cent of all plastic is made from fossil fuels, according to The Guardian. It’s more costly for yourself and the environment to buy a plastic bottle. Try this stainless steel water bottle from Turtley Eco.
‘There will always be a need to drive, reverting to walking or cycling is regressing’
The Independent found that transportation creates around 25 per cent of all greenhouse gases in the UK, with road transport accounting for about 70 per cent. The goal is to be mindful and conscious of alternative modes of transport and choosing the right transport for the journey’s length or finding alternative fuels for engines if a car is needed.
Humanity has stretched its legs to push technology further than ever before, but perhaps it’s time to take a step back and find a purpose in this mindless need for excess. Even small journeys contribute carbon to the atmosphere. If you can walk or cycle to work, then give that a try, if you can car share or get public transport to work, that is also a viable option to reducing your sole contribution of carbon.
‘Is it too late to make a change?’
Last year, The Guardian noted that the world’s leading climate scientists warned that the world has only 12 years to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5C to avoid climate breakdown. There is still time to radically change our behaviour and our odds. The statistics speak for themselves. If society continues in ignorance, the carbon emissions will increase and our planet will be beyond the point of return.
Half our oceans will be filled with the plastic that has taken a tenth of our carbon atmosphere as well. Change, on all levels, can make a big impact. Whether it’s driving to Madrid to emit 75kg less CO2 than flying there, or vowing to never use or waste plastic again.
Greenhouses gases have not been created by one person, but billions of people. Yet the climate crisis can only be undone if each person responsibility for their own actions and carbon output, as the rest will follow. It won’t be undone overnight, but in your lifetime you may see temperatures stabilises and the UK reach it’s 2050 net zero carbon target.
For more from Jess, visit jessicakatie.com