Columban Competition: ‘It takes cool people to help a warm planet’
Anushka Fernandes (17) of St Paul’s Catholic School, Milton Keynes, came joint third in the Columban Young Journalists Competition 2019 (print) for her article on Climate Change.
What we need is a cooling planet and warm-hearted people – sounds better, doesn’t it? The reason? Global warming is caused mostly by humans! Many people do not believe in global warming. “It’s too cold, how can there be global warming?” they say.
Let me tell you that the cold outside is the weather not the climate. The weather is the day to day state of the atmosphere in a region whereas climate describes the average conditions expected at a specific place at a given time generated by the climate system. And that’s what we are going to address today – the climate. The world is becoming warmer every passing day. Not only was 2016 considered the hottest year on record but eight of the 12 months were considered the hottest months of that year (Martin Wolf, Global Warming). This is the caused by the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The increase in carbon dioxide is a result of the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
The Earth has broken more than 40,000 records of high temperatures in 2018. This shocking five-digit figure has come as a consequence with the amount of emissions on this planet with China being the biggest emitter (The Guardian, 2018). In one year, the world emits 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the 19th century (The Guardian). The Arctic Sea ice melt is one of the many aftermaths of the Earth warming over recent years. Since September 2018, the Arctic Sea ice is now declining at a rate of 12.8 percent per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average (NASA global climate change). The melting of Arctic Sea ice can have a dramatic effect on the flow of ocean water, through a change to the overall temperature gradient and through a decrease in ocean salinity due to the large stream of fresh water, both of which can influence the strength and frequency of storms. Sea ice further regulates how much moisture is transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere,
another direct link to weather patterns.
Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ suggests that worst impacts of climate change will be felt in developing countries. Low income countries will remain on the front line, experiencing gradual sea level rises and stronger cyclones. East Africa can be ready to experience increased short rains, while West Africa should expect heavier rains. Bangladesh and India can expect stronger cyclones; elsewhere in Southern Asia, heavier rains in the summer are anticipated. Indonesia may receive less rainfall between July and October, but the coastal regions around the south China Sea and Gulf of Thailand can expect increased rainfall extremes when cyclones hit land. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says “Monsoon onset dates are likely to become earlier or not to change much while monsoon withdrawal rates are very likely to delay, resulting in a lengthening of the season”. There are two reasons that the poorer countries are likely to face the worst impacts: these countries are in regions of the world that are most likely to be adversely affected; and they are least able to protect themselves against, or manage, the impact
due to economic problems within the countries.
Moreover, the impact caused by emissions is long-lasting. These costs come from the effects of heat on productivity, agricultural output and health. Adapting to extreme weather remains very hard for poor countries. There have been far more damaging impacts of huge storms on poorer countries like those in the Caribbean region, compared to the US (The Financial Times). It is possible for well-off nations to reduce these adverse impacts. Countries with greater infrastructure, better-measured capital markets, flexible exchange rates and more accountable and democratic institutions recover faster economically from the adverse impact of temperature shocks than others. Hot regions in high-income countries also survive better than those in poorer ones. All this supports the view that the poorest countries are likely to be the most dented by rising temperatures. The populations of such countries are more vulnerable because they are closer to the natural world.
A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades, this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to
each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.
Pope Francis suggests in Laudato Si’ that the change in climate has been caused by human society. Reports suggests that these changes could not have possibly been natural causes as it has been a rapid change that has occurred in a span of 100 years compared to the usual thousands of years. Humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the air far faster than nature has ever seen before and this is bound to have consequences. Pope Francis suggests that it the job of the humans on this planet to take care of it and bring about a transformation in their lifestyles that is currently driven by man-made objects affecting the environment. In Laudato Si’, it is also mentioned that we are called to take care of God’s creation as set out in our call to stewardship in Genesis. Pope Francis also proposes that people are so overwhelmed and amazed by technology that they embrace it without thinking how it will affect our world. Pope Francis believes that there is still scope for improvement from us if we move towards an ‘ecological conversion’.
The Missionary Society of St. Columban believes that the issue of climate change is a ‘threat to peace’ that crosses boundaries of ethical and religious divides. We can work to make this world a better place.