Climate is changing and we can no longer deny it

by Mary Fagioli
Corso Trieste, Rome - tree pruning

Climate change is a topic that affects not only the surrounding environment but also our economy, our homes, and our lives. Indicators are important because they monitor the changes occurring on our planet and consider all possible scenarios, such as rising sea levels and global temperatures. The social cost of carbon dioxide is the most reasonable quantitative indicator calculating the economic cost of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Economics of climate change

According to the DICE-EMR estimates published in Nature Communications, by the end of the century 4.6 million more people will die each year due to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Bressler’s research states that we should immediately reduce emissions and stop using fossil fuels by 2050.

To this must be added the last IAM DICE-2016R published version, developed by Nobel laureate William Nordhaus, which analyses the temperature-related cost of living from the view of neoclassical economic growth theory. Compared to the earliest versions of DICE/RICE family of models, this one takes into account statistical tests and a much more in-depth study of long-term economical progress up to 2100 and beyond. The revision therefore corrects mistakes and improves data. Nordhaus integrates the climate change parameters into a long-run macroeconomic analysis, combining the delay in reducing emissions with the neoclassical Ramsey growth model. The temperature will reach a maximum of 7.2 °C in 2270, with an almost constant relative deviation of 0.5%. In order to avoid future damages and continue robust economic growth, emissions should be rapidly reduced. In short, keeping temperatures below 2 °C would more than double by 2050 and sixfold by 2100 the world income.

Biodiversity at risk and the case of Rome

CO2 emissions depend on human activities, mainly the use of fossil and carbon fuels, including carbon dioxide and methane, as well as others. Failure to reduce their levels and more generally the concentration of greenhouse gases would increase the global surface temperature. It’s definitely a red code for humanity, as announced by the IPCC in the latest report released by an international team of 234 scientists. This means that it has become an “inevitable, unprecedented and irreversible” global phenomenon and humans are contributing to exceeding the internationally-agreed threshold of +1.5 °C sooner than expected. 

According to the Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the Australian National Center for the Public Awareness of Science at The Australian National University, Will Grant, the aftermath of a five, six warmer world will lead to catastrophic consequences for human civilization: massive loss of farming land, huge natural disasters all over the world, floods, fires, sea level rise devastating for many coastal cities, endangered species, and of course mass deaths. Rising temperatures can cause stress in the ecosystem and affect biodiversity. The Professor offers the example of oranges: they need a frost at a certain point in the season. If there is no frost anymore, it may be difficult to grow oranges, the dominant food source for a certain species. And suddenly key species fail. Effects of climate change may result nonlinear and complicated to deal with.

One of the most threatened species in Rome is the Pinus pinea, due to the Toumeyella parvicornis infestation, but also to the excessive heat of last years, humidity, and the human impact on the surrounding environment. Countless public works have reduced roots, pruning over time has been too harsh, so the trees become diseased and may fall, as explained in the short documentary shown below.

Ideological and profit views on addressing climate change

New media environments have polarized the public debate and brought people to extremes. The international environmental movement #FridaysforFuture aims to put moral pressure on governments and mass media, focussing on the Paris Agreements and new environmental and social policies. The movement was born in 2018 following the strikes of Greta Thunberg in front of the Swedish Parliament, who asked for concrete actions against the climate crisis. In just a few years, 14 million people have been involved, most of them millennials and genZs. Social media has taken a key role in politics since it can connect activists and influence persons globally. In this way, people can come closer on these platforms and are able to take actions.

Oil and gas companies have also benefited from these web-based channels, through a massive $17m investment in political advertising campaigns since May 2018. Advertisement centers on the negative consequences of the ecological transition measures for the economy, because of the loss of jobs or imports from abroad. Fossil fuels companies have relevant connections in the political background too. A famous climate denier is the former US President Donald Trump, who came out of the Paris Agreement and showed reactionary positions since the US election campaign in 2017. The director of “La Nuova Ecologia” newspaper, Francesco Lo Iacono, argues that scepticism comes from the desire to defend a model of economic growth based on fossil energy sources and not circular.

Towards a cultural evolution

COP26 highlighted that the scientific community has taken the lead position in avoiding global disasters. The scientific consensus on the climate is currently very strong. A Cornell University study finds that 99% of peer-reviewed scientific papers from 2012 to November 2020 believe that human activities play a key role in the climate crisis. 

Furthermore, long-term policies have been better defined in the conference, such as support for the most vulnerable populations and climate sources of financing. The objectives remain those of the 1.5 °C threshold and the reduction of CO2 and carbon emissions by 2030. New scenarios open up for developing a more sustainable future, through innovative economic and social models, new lifestyles and approaches. In the not too distant future, the consequences of climate change on human health and activities will decide the survival of humankind. Consequently, it is our responsibility to guarantee the right to life both for future generations, and for animal and plant species of the planet.

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