Jake O'Kane: Dump Trump's global warming ignorance & embrace recycling – or risk extinction

On December 24 1968, Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders took a picture of Earth which became known as 'Earthrise'. One of the most famous photos ever taken, it showed the planet rising like an incandescent blue jewel from the black void of space. For many, it was a visual reminder of how precious, unique and, above all, how delicate our planet is...

Earthrise, one of the most famous photos in history and a reminder of Earth's beauty
Jake O'Kane

FIFTY years on, this week saw the publication of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), providing evidence of a 1.5 degree increase in global temperature.

The report was based on evidence gathered from 6,000 studies analysed by 133 experts from 40 different countries.

If – and it's a big if – we manage to adopt the measures necessary to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees, the most serious effects of global warming may be avoided.

However, if temperatures rise by two degrees instead, the world will face a litany of disasters such as the loss of all coral reefs and a rise in sea levels that would permanently engulf much of the earth's coastline.

Countries such as Pakistan will face catastrophic flooding and cities like Venice and Amsterdam will disappear beneath the rising tides.

The new IPCC recommendation of 1.5 degrees is important as the Paris Climate Accord of 2015 set two degrees as its target.

The Paris Accord was rightly judged a triumph as, for the first time, all the world's developing and developed nations reached agreement on climate change and what needed to be done to counter it.

Yet despite this new report and a mountain of scientific evidence, there remain climate change sceptics such as Donald Trump. A mainstay of President Trump's election campaign was a promise to withdraw the US from the Paris Accord – a promise he has kept.

Trump argued the accord was bad for US business and as such, was contrary to his isolationist policy of ‘US first'. Trump seems incapable or unwilling to comprehend that rising tides and destructive weather events brought about by climate change won't recognise national borders, a point brought home by Hurricane Michael which battered Florida this week – the third most destructive storm to ever hit the US mainland.

No wall, no matter how high, will protect the US from global warming and its destructive weather events.

For many, global warming seems too big a concept to take on board. A more comprehensible barometer of our impact on the environment can be seen in animal extinction figures. The World Wildlife Fund estimate half of the world's wildlife has become extinct in the last 40 years.

Does it really matter if a worm in the Amazon dies out? Probably not – unless you're the worm. But it isn't just worms: there are only 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild and three of the five species of rhino are endangered. The orang-utan population has shrunk by 80 per cent due to deforestation and the majestic tiger has been hunted to the point of extinction.

Not content with destroying our environment, we seem intent on killing every other life form before we sink the lifeboat called Earth.

Many despair, arguing little can be done as global warming is a problem of nations: what point is there in an individual recycling their waste when China, India and the US pump tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day?

The point is personal responsibility. How can you argue against climate change unless you're doing your best to alleviate it? So along with recycling we also need to recognise the dangers inherent in our disposable lifestyle.

As a child, I remember my father went to a tailor once a year to have two new suits made. It was a time when trousers were stitched if torn, shirts had buttons replaced and buying new clothes was an event.

Today clothes are so cheap they're disposable – we don't mend nor fix, we simply replace. Our society demands cheap clothes, cheap food and cheap energy, but the ultimate price for these things will be anything but cheap, as they contribute to the destruction of our planet.

The environmental price for such convenience is clear: mass extinctions and the heating up of the planet to a point where vast swathes of it will become uninhabitable.

This will lead to mass migrations which will make those of the last five years look insignificant. There is an inescapable reality – unless we embrace recycling, the earth will recycle us.

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