Of all the sobering reports that have been published about the effects of climate change on this planet over the past decade, the most recent studies to be released certainly seem the most damning (at least in terms of deliverables).
While one study published in a science journal last year likened the state of coral reefs to the aftermath of war, another highlighted the fact that London surpassed its annual air pollution quota within just a week and a third declared that the world broke a new record in carbon dioxide levels in 2017.
TRT World's recent report on The Newsmakers shed light on the “sting of extinction” within several species thanks to habitat loss and the increasing use of pesticides.
It is no wonder, then, that former US president Barack Obama told an audience in Calgary, Canada, on Tuesday that while fossil fuels have seen humanity through the decades since the great old Industrial Revolution, the findings of science must be respected. He was being pragmatic with an audience of oil and gas industrialists, after all.
And yet, despite the constant chimes of threat and urgency and aside from the clamour of forums and state-sponsored speeches, the issue still seems inconsequentially topical (or topically inconsequential) among humanity at large.
Indeed, despite the glaring, scorching facts, the correlation between a warmer world and a worsening quality of life, especially in the third world, are still not readily fathomed among the masses.
As David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth, puts it: "When it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination."
“The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities ... the fact that the US is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing, the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings, the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past ... our uncertainty about uncertainty … "
For one thing, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently reported that 90 percent of plastic is not recycled. That’s a staggering one million plastic bottles binned per minute, according to Forbes.
The vast majority of developing countries are waist-deep in waste management issues, a far cry from less populated, more developed Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden, which has periodically run out of waste to recycle and has turned to other countries to keep its recycling mills working (speaking of Sweden, its summer arrived in April last year, reportedly the earliest in two centuries).
Where countries like India have put a cap on the life expectancy and volume of cars in an attempt to do damage control, smog still makes pollution a challenge on the best of days. In fact, drought has driven tens of thousands of its farmers to suicide in recent decades. And it is precisely third world countries with poor infrastructure, no caps on emissions and ever-climbing temperatures that bear the brunt of the heat, not least because a great many lie on the equatorial line, but also because they are the scene of unrestrained industrial activity and dumping sites.
In the Middle East, booming populations and climate change only exacerbate the misery of living within failed, war-ridden states. The water crisis has always made for more protracted conflicts and perfect pretexts for Israel to invade and capture, on which it has capitalised for decades. Jordan and Lebanon, the latter teetering on economic collapse, have suffered from dire water shortages for decades already, while several reports published within the last two years have warned that the Gulf and the region at large could become uninhabitable within the century.
Meanwhile, in Europe, fires have ravaged large swathes of forested land across the southern coasts in recent years and the Americas are more frequently experiencing cataclysmic winds and hurricanes (and arguably beastlier wildfires) befitting the sheer size of the continent.
Those with a vested interest in downplaying the effects of global warming (executives and politicians with stakes in the very companies that exacerbate them) say our forefathers experienced just the same types of heatwaves in the decades, or even centuries, that passed. Still, the literature can no longer be cast within a climate of conjecture simply because the tangible evidence of a brewing storm has become too real to ignore.
The United Nations body responsible for the publication of reports on climate change recently warned that we only have a decade or so left at our current global warming threshold (1.5C), after which all the pre-doomsday scenarios of mass human suffering will exponentially increase. Where the 2C mark was agreed upon as a maximum, especially during the 2015 Paris agreement that was snubbed by US President Donald Trump (much to the ire of more than 3,500 leaders representing half of the US population, who pledged #wearestillin), scientists are now discovering that we are far outdoing ourselves at an exponential speed, with too many causes, variables and symptoms to mitigate.
That hurricanes are becoming more frequent, terrains are drier, wildfires are on the increase, species are dwindling and the caucuses of dead whales are washing up on the world’s shores with up to a 1,000 bottles in their insides at a time aren't even the biggest of the blows. The issue is that efforts to reverse the damage, while in some parts of the world consistent, solid and significant, have been deemed insufficient in the face of the forces at play.
While yes, the Netherlands will pay you to cycle to work (more than a quarter of journeys in the country are already made by bike) and while India broke a world record by planting more than 65 million trees within a single day, the WEF also reminds us that the oceans are bearing the brunt of the heat we generate, or the equivalent to 1.5 detonated atomic bombs per second.
Indeed, the other side of the coin, luckily for the skeptics, is that some argue the effects of climate change are too far gone to salvage or even control. Still, the facts remain: the world on the whole is a hotter, dirtier and more crowded place and that is why the issue of collective self-destruction - and the apocalyptic speed in which it is happening - undercuts all other existential crises.