News of global warming is constant, particularly in the wake of the most recent IPCC report. The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) demonstrates in its 2022 reporting that “the world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with a global warming of 1.5°C/2.7°F” (IPCC). The report goes on to warn that if global warming exceeds 2°C (3.6°F), local efforts to solve climate change will become futile. To address key issues surrounding global warming we first have to understand the main contributing factors.
aware_ presents 9 causes of global warming.
89% of fish in our oceans have “overfished” status. On average, each person eats approximately 19.2kg of fish a year, which is more than twice the amount 50 years ago. Overfishing has become a key contributor to global warming as reduced marine life in the sea leads to less carbon sequestration – “a vital process that locks carbon emissions away” (Greenpeace).
The industrial revolution (1760 – 1840) introduced “the use of machines and the mechanisation of process” (ResearchGate), with it came “technological innovations, rapid transportation of economies, territorial expansions, unprecedented population growth, emergency of urban areas” (ResearchGate). The industrial revolution allowed for a scalability that humans had never enjoyed before, at the sacrifice of our environment. Population growth as a product of the industrial revolution has led to the expansion of urban areas, leading to increased release of greenhouse gasses, with fossil fuel burning experiencing a severe increase to satisfy energy requirements (ResearchGate).
With rising populations, the pressure on the farming industries has only increased. At every stage of the process of supplying food – producing, storing, processing, packaging, preparing and serving – “releases gases into the atmosphere” (EEA). Methane produced by livestock is one of the key contributors to global warming. Produced by livestock, methane gases escapes into the atmosphere, as well as into stored manure and organic waste. According to a report in 2012, “agriculture accounted for 10% of the EU’s total greenhouse-gas emissions in 2012” (EEA)
It’s no secret that our careless treatment of both clothing and the apparel industry has had an irreversible effect on global warming. And there seems to be no sign of slowing down, according to recent statistics, “clothing consumption will rise by 63% by 2030, equivalent to 500 billion more shirts” (Herbones). The process of manufacturing fast fashion – trend replication using a high volume of low-quality materials – involved processes that greatly contribute to global warming. The mass-production of cheap clothing, including dying, synthetic materials, large-scale transportation and cheap, fast labour, making fast-paced clothing consumption one of the worst areas of impact.
The key contributors to global warming are not mutually exclusive. Transport is a fundamental enabler for the apparel, farming and fishing industries alike. The shipping sector alone transports 80% of the volume of world trade (UN), contributing to an estimated 3% of global warming. In total “transportation accounts for about 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions” (EPA) with last 30 years demonstrating an unparalleled increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
On the event of any climate march or demonstration, a sea of protest signs will be emblazoned with calls to halt oil extraction. There is good reason for this. The extraction of from beneath the earths surface has a direct impact on global warming. Once the oil or gas has been taken, water fills the void where the oil or gas once existed. The water replacement is a less effective insulator, and thus more heat is conducted from the earth’s interior, “causing the land and the ocean to warm”. (The Conversation)
Power plants are responsible for approximately 40% of global CO2 emissions. To generate electricity, fossil fuels must be combusted to generate the heat needed to power steam turbines. The burning of this fuels results in the production of carbon dioxide. Increased levels of carbon dioxide are primary reason for global warming as heat is trapped within the earth’s atmosphere (Hindawi).
In the US alone 250 million tons of waste is produced every year, approximately 4.4 pounds of waste generated per person every day (National Geographic). Some scientists would argue that the levels of waste generated by growing populations is the main cause of global warming. The heat generated by waste – a result of biochemical processes and decomposition of organic constituents in wastes as well as due to chemical reactions that occur within the wastes – is a key contributor to the earth’s rising temperatures (Science Direct).
Forests, woodland and jungles are a pillar for keeping the planet healthy. Trees take in and store carbon from the earth’s atmosphere, making them essential antidote to the dramatic increases we’ve seen in increasing levels of CO2 emissions. But these essential instruments needed to absorb carbon are being destroyed to make space for agricultural expansion, wood extraction and infrastructure expansion. One degraded or cleared by fire the stored carbon is released back into the earths atmosphere as carbon dioxide, thus contributing to global warming (LSE).
– By Eliza Edwards
Climate disasters outside of Europe and Northern America are all too often ignored by international news despite the social implications of climate change having unthinkable consequences. Around the world, people are facing the effects of “extreme events, health effects, food security, livelihood security, migration, water security, cultural identity” and yet the contrast in reporting from the global north to the global south remains troubling.
aware_ presents 3 climate disasters, the first which garnered widespread attention, and two left largely ignored by the mainstream media.
“It urges us to work for a world where everyone has the right to a safe environment, the right to affordable and safe housing, that right to dignity”
– Nathan Thanki writes in 1 Degree Rising
2021 Texas Power Crisis
From 13th to the 17th February a major ice and snow storm tore through Texas. The largest US-state normally experiences a short, dry winter with hot, long summers. The storms, which spanned a total of 10 days, caused the worst energy failure on record and led to critical water, food and heat shortages. Across the state, news channels were inundated with videos of ice hanging off AC units, burst water pips ripping through houses (approximately 12 million people were affected) and hospitals left without water and electricity supplies. Reports show that an estimated 246 people lost their lives at the hands of the storm, with some reporting suggesting that as many as 702 people were killed. The environmental implications over the course of a matter of days were catastrophic. The stopping and starting of fossil fuel infrastructure led to the significant release of pollutants, including a reported 12 tons of natural gas and 34 tons of carbon monoxide (Bloomberg). The economic ramifications are estimated at 120$ billion in Texas alone.
The 2021 Texas power crisis was more than well documented, laying bare the hard reality the many climate disasters experiencing a severe lack of media attention in contrast. aware_ presents 2 further climate disasters that led to severe suffering, displacement and poverty, left largely ignored by mainstream media.
Extreme Flooding in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone, a West African country on the Atlantic Ocean, is no stranger to wet weather. It’s capital Freetown has become infamous for “heavy rains and its exceptional vulnerability to flooding” (Thanki, Nathan). Luka Thomac’s book of photography “1 Degree Rising” highlights the flooding of September 2009 which left over a 100 people dead, whilst demolishing thousands of houses. The flooding of September 2015 took the lives of 7 people, whilst thousands were left homeless (Thanki, Nathan). August 2017 saw a huge mudslide, that due to levels of precipitation approximately 300% higher than expected, killed at least 1,100 people. The disaster, which was reported to be 90 percent man-made, destroyed the lives of locals as “volumes of water, mud and rock” (Aljazeera) tore through the city in approximately 3 minutes. The mudslides were a product of “climate-change driven heavy rains with inadequate housing, poor planning, deforestation, poverty, and state neglect”, writes Nathan Thanki. As a country struggling financially – its income is $1,400 per capita in comparison to Northern America’s $56,000 – the 61 settlements within Freetown are now “defined by precarious housing with unsafe structures, missing infrastructure, no sanitation or drainage systems” (Thanki, Nathan).
“I lost my husband, my sister and her husband, now I have to care for their children and my three”
– Benia Daboh, Sierra Leone Flood Victim
Coal Addiction in Indonesia
Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of coal. In research by Dipti Bahatnagar, for the aforementioned 1 Degree Rising, a reported 460 million tonnes of coal was mined by the country in 2015. Despite promises made during the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by 29% by 2030, Indonesia remains “one the world’s largest coal exporters” (Dipti Bahatnagar). Whilst independent for the last 70 years, the country has only held elections for the last 15. Both exported and burnt at the country’s power plants, coal mining in the country has destroyed local communities and “has polluted 50 of Indonesia’s beautiful rivers” (Dipti Bahatnagar). The large areas of rain forest destroyed to make space for the mining has severely impacted the country’s indigenous communities. Once a treasure trove for food, firewood and rubber for harvesting, is now a mining wasteland. Communities who turn to the rivers find polluted streams with dying fish and water infected waters seeping into crops.
WALHI, the largest and oldest environmental advocacy NGO in Indonesia, have been supporting the local communities “protesting the mining operations” but with increasing crackdowns from the police, tensions between the communities themselves are on the rise. Bahatnagar reminds us at the end of the article that as well as the climate distasters caused by mining, “the rampant palm oil expansion is threatening [further] immense deforestation” (Dipti Bahatnagar).
Climate Disasters Strike Peru
Peru has an especially diverse and unique ecosystem. Over recent years, as the earths temperatures have steadily risen, the Peruvian government have continued “to promote an extractivist system” (Rodriguez Acha), enabling the global economy to destroy our planet. In the Andes and the Amazon “minerals and hydrocarbons to fuel national economies, world markets and global consumption” are being wrenched out of the earth (Rodriguez Acha). Whilst Peru is being drained of its resources the indigenous communities, a crucial pillar of Peruvian culture, have been subject to “colonial legacies, and racist, classist and misogynistic structures” (Rodriguez Acha). Communities that have been settled for centuries are now being faced with “criminalisation and repression” (Rodriguez Acha). Naturally, conflict has ensued. In 2012 in Cusco, Peru protestors were trampled by 1,500 police whilst attempting to take over the Tintaya mine encampment. 2 protesters were killed and 100 were left injured. In the capital city of Cerro de Pasco, monitoring processes have calculated that “78 million tons of mining waste was held in precarious dumpsite across the city”.
Approximately 1000 sites, effecting over 20 Indigenous communities, across the country need to be restored by reversing the environmental damage caused by extraction; calls from the indigenous federations are only getting louder.
– By Eliza Edwards