Letter on our environmental challenges from Julian Pycraft
By Julian Pycraft
Mankind has managed to bring famine, plague and war under control due to phenomenal economic growth, which provides us with abundant food, medicine, energy and raw materials. But this same growth has destabilised the ecological equilibrium. Despite all talk of pollution, global warming and climate change, most countries have yet to make any serious economic sacrifices to improve the situation. Politicians choose growth over ecological stability. To avoid catastrophe and survive, mankind has to acknowledge and address the enormous environmental challenges ahead.
Scientific progress and economic growth take place within a sensitive biosphere, and as they gather steam, the shock waves destabilise the ecology. Progress and growth is destroying the ecosystem, wiping out fauna, flora, forests, seas and posing an existential threat to humans. An ecological meltdown will cause economic ruin, political turmoil, a fall in human standards of living and threaten the very existence of human civilisation. There is no justice in history. When disaster strikes, the poor almost always suffer far more than the rich, even if the rich caused the tragedy in the first place. Some of the refugee flows into Europe originate not only from conflict, but also from places where there are food shortages, which will get far worse as climate change continues.
Food production is the leading driver of greenhouse emissions, even larger than energy production. The path to a sustainable future will require unleashing the creative power of our best scientists, engineer, entrepreneurs, backed by public and private investment, to deploy new innovations in climate-smart agriculture. Better seeds, better storage, crops that use less water, grow in harsher climates, mobile technologies that put more agriculture date - satellite imagery, weather forecasting and market prices - into the farmer's hands. We can help ensure food security, producing the food to produce billions of people and not destroy the planet in in the process.
We need to create a food culture that encourages a demand for healthier, more sustainable food, alleviating huge increasing medical costs such as obesity. We need to set aside politics in favour of clean air, sustainable food and water. People naturally understand the connection between smokestacks and energy production and greenhouse gases. Most people aren't as familiar with the impact of cows and methane. Animal agriculture and its by-products contributes to 51% ("Cowspiracy") of global greenhouse gases when our entire transportation; cars, trucks, trains, planes all put together which contributes 13%. Animal agriculture is clearing 1-2 acres of rainforest every second, making it responsible for 91% of the Amazon destruction. 110 animal and insect species are lost every day from rainforest destruction, animal agriculture now making itself the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction,
Renewable technologies use natural energy to make electricity - including wind, wave, marine, hydro, biomass and solar. These renewables currently produce over 20% of the UK's electricity and whilst that figure is slowly rising there is a greater need from them if climate change is to be reduced.
The highest safe level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is 350 parts per million. We're now at 400. Air pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths each year as well as all the health risks involved it also has a catastrophic effect on our environment, contributing to acid rain, haze, ozone depletion, effects on wildlife, crop and forest damage, global climate change and more.
Increasing air pollution increases climate change and adds to global warming. It's been calculated that the least we could hope to do without it having catastrophic implications as far as drought, famine and other disasters are concerned would be around a 2 degree increase in temperature which we are rapidly approaching and with all the built-in carbon dioxide that's in the atmosphere we're easily going to exceed that. If action isn't taken now it won't be until whole countries go under water because of sea level rise and whole countries find that there's so much drought that they can't feed their population and as a result they need to desperately migrate to another country or worse, invade another country. There could be potential climate wars in the future.
One of climate change's biggest victims are our oceans. Oceans regulate our Earth's temperature and provide 50% of the World's oxygen. The Earth's oceans have increased in temperature. One of these consequences is the increase in ocean acidification. This is the direct effect of dissolved Co2. This higher acid content is putting the entire ocean food chain at risk also. 80.4 million metric tons of fish are pulled from the ocean each year, it's bad news for the one billion people that rely on the ocean as its primary source of protein.
There's not one solution to climate change. We need to live by the assumption that what is good for the world, is good for us. We're part of the cause, we can also be part of the solution