Climate change appears to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days but are we really doing enough to combat it? With a parliament whose average age is around 40, many of the younger generation fear this creates an apathy about the future of our planet.
In a series of recent political decisions within both the UK and the US, positive steps towards helping the planet may be pushed further out of official legislation. Theresa May already closed the climate change department and appointed Andrea Leadsom as the new Environment Secretary, a surprise considering how she voted against setting targets for reducing carbon emissions in both 2012 and 2016.
The recent election in the US could potentially have disastrous consequences for the planet with Trump claiming climate change is nothing more than a hoax. As the planet’s population continues to grow, to potentially 9.2 billion by 2050, and our demand for energy rises (probably upward of 80 per cent of that which we use today) now more than ever is the time to act.
In a recent positive announcement, it has been stated that for the first time ever half of UK electricity comes from low-carbon sources. These sources include UK nuclear, imported French nuclear, biomass, hydro, wind and solar. For the first time since 1881, on 5 May 2016, no coal was burnt in order to produce electricity, and moments such as these have continued over the course of the summer. These figures are very positive and there is the possibility that unless coal power stations can cut their carbon emissions in half, they will be forced to close by 2025. But this should not be taken as cause for complacency.
These measures are just the start. We need to continue to invest in renewable energy sources, as overwhelming research highlights the growing threat of climate change. We cannot ignore how 2016 will be the hottest year since measurements began in the 19th century, how in places like China children’s sports days are being cancelled because of dangerously high pollution levels, and how our overconsumption and dependency on plastic and other ‘disposables’ is leading to an unprecedented amount of waste. It is not just renewable energy we need to invest in; we need to look to all the possible measures we could be taking.
All around the world people are rallying to protest against climate change. From Wales, where the largest open coal mine was shut down for over 12 hours in May this year, or at the same time to the Philippines where over 10,000 people marched to demand the cancellation of a proposed coal power plant. Celebrities too are increasingly active in displaying their support for combating climate change, and boosting public knowledge; for instance, Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest documentary Before the Flood. The public support for doing everything we can to prevent climate change is becoming overwhelming.
Whilst the UK is clearly making positive steps, we cannot stop now. Britain has already been impacted by continuous flooding and wetter winters contrasted with drier summers.
As these hotter summers continue, there will be a steady rise in heat-related mortality, rising by 70 per cent in 2020, compared with 2000 and then by 540 per cent by the 2080s, costing the NHS an inordinate amount of money. If we do not address climate change more stringently now, not only are we going to be faced with attacks of a variety of different weather issues, but we will also have to pay for the ramifications later. We need to address the issue now to prevent paying for it later.
Image credit: Jmcdaid