Sunday, 16 June 2019

Opinion - How do we become zero carbon by 2030?

How do we become zero carbon by 2030?

Firstly, I believe that we should start with a few clarifications on what this means and the definitions, then we can look at exactly what the problems are. We can look at how we might solve those problems better then. Remember, this is the single biggest problem that humans have ever had to face so we should never underestimate how difficult the task is.

‘Global Warming’ and ‘Climate Change’ get banded around so often so let’s state their definitions

Global Warming: refers to the surface temperature of the earth

Climate Change: refers to the many changes that will occur with increases in temperature and greenhouse gases (drawdown)

So it is not one phrase being used instead of another. They are not interchangeable. They are distinct issues which need to be addressed. They are though, definitely linked. The world's climate has always changed and always will but what we need to look at, is what is different now.

Since the Industrial Revolution humans have been pumping out carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Coal, oil and gas have fuelled this revolution but there is always a cost. The waste from these fossil fuels has not gone away. They have lingered in our atmosphere, warming up the earth since we started using them. Just as our greenhouses get hotter when the air is trapped inside (hence the term greenhouse gases), all these gases are heating up the planet. If we were in a greenhouse and it go too hot we would open the door and leave. However, we cannot leave Earth; there is no planet B.

The issue we face then is to stop using fossil fuels which will stop the problem getting worse, but also, how do we reverse global warming? There are many who are climate change deniers, who would prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than face up to this challenge. I would say to them, and indeed to all the people of the wonderful planet; business as usual is not an option.

The impact of climate change on our lives might seem small and almost unassuming, like the colour of our nets when everybody used to smoke in the house. When we took the nets down to wash them, they were stiff and grey. The ceiling (we had a coal fire so we were particularly prone) seemed yellow by comparison with the original white. It took years to get to that state; the change almost unnoticed on a daily basis. The effects of smoke on our lungs have now been proven. The effects of air pollution on our health is also now becoming apparent.

Coughs and wheezing are common in cities as our lung functions decrease. Breathing in polluted air puts us all in a higher risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Many air pollutants are carcinogenic therefore increasing our risk of cancer. Further evidence suggest that it can damage our immune system, and also our endocrine and reproductive systems. Particulates in air pollution have been associated with higher incidents of heart problems.

Air pollution also settles on our plants, animals ingest it, it contaminates our water supply. The poison is everywhere.

A few years ago I put up air pollution monitoring kits around Sheffield City Centre. 5 came back well over the EU safe limit for polluted air. These were placed near tram stops, railway station (away from the taxis)and  near university roundabout.

The 6th one was just under the safe limit. I found this the most worrying. I had placed it in the gates of Western Park; where people go for some quiet time, to eat their lunch etc. Also, it was opposite the Children’s Hospital. I did not put it by the bus stop where the buses were idling; where their fumes were gathering around the entrance to the hospital where vulnerable children are taken to be made well. Even so the reading was still close, too close for comfort.

Most of us have now stopped smoking, especially in the house. I don’t know anyone who burns coal to heat their homes (at least not directly). We have washed our nets of all the pollution. We have repainted our houses and removed the discolouration due to pollution. The question now remains as to whether we can do the same to the world, the planet, our Earth.

Beatrice Greenfield