How we are destroying Poland and the world

Wiktoria Walkowiak, City, University of London

How many atomic bombs would we need to place in the ocean to warm it up to the temperature that it has been warmed up to for years? One atomic bomb explosion per second for 150 years, according to analysis of new research. However, today the heating continues to accelerate, and carbon emissions continue to rise which makes it between three and six atomic bombs per second.

High temperatures haven’t been anything strange in Poland. However, the previous five years, globally have belonged to the highest temperatures in history. This means the planet is continuously warming up and we’re much closer to facing a man-made disaster on a global scale than we think. Temperatures of the most recent decade exceed the warmest temperatures of our reconstruction. The average global temperature has risen from the XIX century by over a degree and in our region just over two degrees.

Should we panic over just two degrees?

Rewind to the last ice age, the average temperature of the Earth’s surface was under four degrees below today’s temperature. However, we do not need statistics to show change. Our human senses can simply perceive the world around us. If we take a clearer look, 30 years ago every Christmas was a white Christmas. Our elder relatives faced remarkably heavy winters; lakes and rivers were completely frozen and used as ice skating rings. When winter came to an end, snow began to melt, and floods occurred. And now? Now we don’t expect every Christmas to be a white Christmas. If low temperatures last then snow settles for around 3 days, not 3 weeks like it did 30 years ago.

The thing is, a warming climate doesn’t simply mean ‘warmer summers’ and less cold winters. It begins to disrupt weather patterns, making storms and rain events more intense. This is a reflection of Poland’s latest climate. In May, torrential rain filled Poland’s rivers to their highest levels in over a century. Buildings were destroyed and trees had fallen and yet this was only the beginning. Tornados then took over. These were unexpected climatic events that struck Poland. Scientific research demonstrates that more than 90% of the heat trapped by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the seas, which covers 70% of the Earth’s surface. Marine ecosystems are found to be far more sensitive, even by the modest temperature change. Latest evidence suggested that, coral reefs are beginning to bleach, even at the slightest temperature rise and oceans are likely to lose about one-sixth of its fish and marine life by the end of the century. And, because the ocean plays a central role in regulating the earth’s climate, we can only expect worse if this isn’t enough.

The strongest effect on global warming is carried out by carbon dioxide. Its atoms can be found in the most basic human activities such as, breathing and digesting food. But this is a necessary compound in Earth’s life cycle. It is when we begin to emit more CO2 than our flora can absorb through consuming electricity, transportation, building and deforestation. We began to use fossil fuels to make ‘life easier’ by driving cars, heating oil and generating electricity. We’re doing anything to live comfortably, yet our children will pay the price.

Two thirds of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere come from fossil fuels. One third from deforestation. Most of this CO2 is absorbed by oceans which then forms carbonic acid and causes acidity of seawater to increase. This means that the water in our oceans will soon change into gassed, sparkling water. When this happens, our marine life will begin to die out. It’s this simple, yet tragic. If you place a shell into a bottle full of sparkling water, you will begin to see the first stage; the dissolvement of a shell. This is something that awaits our sea life globally in the near future. And allow me to repeat, that this is all our work. The carbon dioxide that is once released into the atmosphere, stays there for decades. There are many suggestions to decrease the amount of CO2 by building machines, that would absorb and clean. However, we have released too much to build anything as powerful without facing extremely high costs. We cannot decrease the temperature that we already have, we can only protect it from rising in the near future.

We should plant more trees!

Replanting trees and stopping deforestation could definitely help. The Woods Hole Research centre in Falmouth announced that “100 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to roughly ten years of fossil fuel emissions could be stored in forests.” But to do this, we would need to encourage the replanting of 500 million hectares of forests and a definite stop to deforestation. Therefore, planting trees could help fight climate change, but it would not solve the problem.

The Sahara climate is moving closer towards the region of the Mediterranean ocean. Poland, year by year has seen an increase in temperature and a decrease in rain fall. This year weather alerts were sent out automatically to warn residents of extreme weather conditions that advised people to stay indoors, mainly throughout June. The low chances of rain fall have made it challenging for plants and animals to thrive, this drastically increased the price of several crops that managed to grow. Nevertheless, this heat resulted in many tragic climatic events. Spruces that grew all over Poland are beginning to die out due to extremely high temperatures.

From the Paris understanding, countries globally have come to a conclusion that the increase of temperature up to two degrees is acceptable and we can still survive. There will be hunger and climate zones will move however, the chances of surviving will still be possible. But this will only be the case if we stick to the Paris understanding and conclusion of having to cut down our CO2 emissions by a half and up to zero by the end of the century.

 

If we continue, digging and burning everything that geologically belongs underground then we’re heading towards a global disaster. Talking about politics, the Polish Prime Minister; Mateusz Morawiecki is blocking out the Paris understanding by sticking to the idea that “fossil fuels are key in our civilisation” because they provide 80% of our global energy. It would be politically, socially and economically uncomfortable to just put a stop to this. Why? because people find it easier to catch a plane or drive their car to the nearest shop and eat a McDonalds burger on the way. But even the production of meat contributes 20% of carbon emissions. A physics graduate, and writer Marcin Popkiewicz said; “if we have conflict with the rights of physics and things that are uncomfortable for us, the rights of physics will still do their job.”

Poland isn’t the only country on this planet. We need to be on the same track with the rest of the world to make a change. But since we’re blocking out the ‘Paris understanding’ because the Polish Prime Minister insisted that it will give us a chance to bargain more money. Maricn Popkiewicz in his recent article said; “We then become a major influence on world politics. if we continue to block the actions of the EU agreements and contribute nothing towards ‘fighting climate change’, China will turn around and say; “Then we do not have to limit our CO2 emissions either.” This will leave our planet heading much closer towards the end than we believe.

However, following Michael B. McElroy, a Harvard University professor = “If we choose to take on this challenge, it appears that we can slow the rate of change substantially, giving us time to develop mechanisms so that the cost to society and the damage to ecosystems can be minimised. We could alternatively close our eyes, hope for the best, and pay the cost when the bill comes due.”