The climate crisis continues to worsen as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reach an all- time high at 423.01 parts per million (ppm). Greta Thunberg tweeted to comment on how terrifying it is that this has gone almost completely unnoticed.
Mauna Loa is a volcano in Hawaii, where there is the Mauna Loa observatory that takes regular CO2 readings. These readings continue to increase, causing further concern over the climate crisis. The observatory made predictions earlier this year that CO2 levels would average 419.2ppm. The global average last year was 417.2ppm.
This is more than a 50% increase from what it would’ve been in the pre-industrial era, according to the USA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This is extremely dangerous and means the Earth will continue to get warmer, causing extreme weather and the melting of ice caps.
What causes this?
The main causes of an increase in atmospheric CO2 are deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. We lose around ten million hectares of forest each year, which means not only are we producing carbon dioxide, but we are preventing it from being absorbed. But it’s probably unfair to say ‘we’ when talking about this topic, because it’s not the individual that’s truly the problem.
The meat industry is a huge player in increasing atmospheric CO2 from deforestation. Beef alone is responsible for 41% of global deforestation, making it one of the least environmentally friendly food products. 80% of this deforestation occurs in the Amazon, which, as our largest rainforest, is essential to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Products like palm oil are also detrimental to the environment, but it is used in over two-thirds of our food products, making it hard to avoid. Deforestation occurs at alarming rates to make space to produce palm oil. Palm oil is a unique product that is difficult to conveniently replace, but there are some alternatives. The downside is that palm oil is incredibly cheap compared to these alternatives, making them unattractive to businesses.
Effects so far
Due to deforestation, the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon dioxide than it absorbs. Previously, the Amazon was an important carbon sink, which is a natural environment with the ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Atmospheric CO2 also dissolves in the ocean, changing its pH. The ocean has become more acidic, which is harmful to marine life.
The main effect we have probably all noticed is more extreme weather. During the summer of 2022, the UK experienced 40 degree heat, which was a heatwave made ten times more likely because of climate change.
What can we do?
While shorter showers and less car-use are often the go-to answers, these have a small effect on CO2 admissions. There is only so much you can do when companies continue to make detrimental choices for our planet’s wellbeing.
However, there are some things you can do, such as choosing meat that comes from a local farm or cutting down on overall meat consumption. Be aware of products that contain palm oil and choose alternatives where possible.
We should also try to choose more sustainable electricity sources for our home. There are energy companies available that use mostly renewable energy sources, or if it is feasible for you, you can install solar panels. This would also help with the cost-of-living crisis!
A positive note
To avoid being all doom and gloom, it is worth mentioning that there are some positive steps being taken to tackle the climate crisis. There is technology being developed for carbon capture, which means capturing and storing excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. This is slightly controversial, but it appears to have some benefits.
Wind and solar energy now regularly out-compete fossil fuels in most regions of the world and they are on track to halve carbon emissions from electricity by 2030. Furthermore, many world leaders have committed to fighting climate change, with 196 countries signing the Paris Agreement.
While there are many businesses deserving of criticism for their contribution to the climate crisis, nearly half of the largest companies in the US have recognised their responsibility to help tackle climate change.
There are also protests taking place all over the world, showing that the people won’t stand for the damage being done to our planet. People want to fight for change. Even though there is a lot of work to be done, our planet is still saveable.