We have all heard of climate change, but we are not really aware of the repercussions. What does it truly mean and what can we do to mitigate and adapt to its effects? Adaptation of our energy system is essential and provides plenty of growth possibilities for society, economy and environment.
The Earth is at the tipping point – human activity is changing the planet more than all other natural forces combined. Our legacy will be human-induced climate change. Many people talk about the current geological epoch as the “Anthropocene Era” in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change. I have read a lot about climate change, but it was when I was hiking up the Franz-Josef glacier, New Zealand, that I commenced to understand its true impact. Instead of walking on glacial ice – as it used to be, we were climbing up grey rocks next to a river of melting water flowing down. Reaching the last bit of this once impressive glacier after a couple of hours, the questions arose: “Am I truly aware of the impact of climate change and are we doing enough to limit the irreversible and seemingly irrevocable consequences?”
The reason for the rising temperature on Earth is the thickened atmosphere caused by carbon emissions due largely from burning fossil fuels. “The energy trapped by global warming pollution is now equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year”, says James Hansen, former Director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The effects of the changing temperature are visible everywhere across the world and appear differently from region to region, ranging from air pollution to extreme temperatures, to heat waves and natural disasters that affect society, economy and the environment. Air pollution alone kills some 7 million people per year; in Poland, it causes the premature death of 50,000 people every year, according to the World Health Organization. Heat waves occur across the globe leading to drought, water and food scarcity in the heat belt of the planet. “In the future, the climate in large parts of Middle East and North Africa could […] render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate”, says Jos Lelieveld from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. Looking at the economy, it is no longer profitable to stick to the old system. In 2017, overall losses from world-wide natural catastrophes totaled $330 billion dollars, up from $184 billion in 2016.