Dueto industrialised progression over the past century, the average global landtemperature has reportedly increased by some staggering 1.65 degrees Celsiusfrom 1916 to 2016, according to NASA.
Whilst some may assume that thistemperature increase is only minute, such an increase has been calculated tohave potentially catastrophic effects in the near future, as specified by statementsfrom the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC). Evidence of these reportsinclude the fact that 2017 was the third hottest year on record, accompaniedwith natural disasters such as hurricanes and major earthquakes in NorthAmerica, the consequences of this are widespread and hard-hitting. This will beconsidered in the following essay, as well as the issue: is climate change irreversible?And if so, how do we go about doing this? This question is complex since it isuncertain whether climate change is a direct result of human development, or ifit just a natural cause. This links to the main issue through how people whobelieve in natural causes of climate change, will have different perspectiveson how to reverse the effects of climate change, or if it is even reversible.
Theinvitation of supposedly over 11 parts per million (PPM), of carbon dioxide,and even larger amounts of other harmful natural gasses since the industrialrevolution, is undeniable proof of human interaction with the climate changing,however, the inevitability of climate change doesn’t mean that we shouldn’thave to make a decision, if we act quickly there is a small window ofopportunity in which we can work to reduce climate change, “or we could keepaccelerating towards catastrophe,” as stated by Richard Somerville forbulletins science and security board. This is suggesting that although climatechange has increased and is scientifically proved to be non-stopping – throughexamples such as ice caps melting, it is not irreversible. Whilst oxymoronic,actions against climate change have been proven to be able to reverse, or atleast reduce the effect it has, arguing that in fact it could be possible toreverse climate change, that of which is caused by human activity.
One exampleis that from the conservation of American Bison, from herds numbering tens ofmillions, American Bison were hunted down to as few as 750 animals in the 1890s,due to less biodiversity in the region, the surrounding ecosystem was damagedby the unnatural hunting of American Bison, this caused changed to the climatein a way that was different than before. Between 1868 and 1881, 31 million wereslaughtered by hunters and fur traders. However, like the North American greywolf, the bison has made a remarkable comeback. Whilst the change in pattern ofherds doesn’t seem significant in terms of effects on the climate, it is thehuman activity of keeping and breeding these animals that causes saidatmospheric changes.
Through conservation initiatives, re-introduction, populationmanagement, the population has rebounded to around huge 350,000 individuals,and with the return of the Bison, the surrounding climate will also change dueto the new added biodiversity “fixing” the ecosystems; proving that change isbased on humans, and that the damage is therefore reversible. The fluctuationof the herd numbers can be representative of human interaction with climatechange, for example, the damage done to the environment is large, and in thefuture, can be too bad to reverse, but through conservation and technologicalideas the environment can be allowed to heal. However, there are alsoconsiderable weaknesses to this argument. Whilst increased populations arevital for maintained biodiversity patterns, the rapid increase in herds alsoleads to greater greenhouse emissions, such as methane, which is produced inthe form of gas by said livestock, this can also link to the downsides ofconservation attempts, such as the emissions released in the production ofrenewable energy sources, as well as the incredibly long payback time and theinefficiency of renewable energy, furthermore, there is a huge differencebetween animal life and climate change, by how climate change occurs overcenturies, therefore it is not known if conservation can reserve the effects ofclimate change, just the same as conservation reverses the effects of hunting.As well as this, the fact that, in accordance to the EEA (European Environment Agency),renewable energy sources have slowed down carbon dioxide – and any otherharmful natural gasses – emissions by up to 7%. Results from this show that therate of melting of the polar ice caps significantly slows down, allowing polarbear populations to increase (with help from conservation) in the thousands.
Whilsthuman activity undoubtedly leads to the main reasons for climate change, it isalso human activity that is helping to reduce it. Whilst the extent to whichclimate change is reversible can be argued, it can be at least limited, if notcompletely stopped. However, the fact that a growing population of humanscreates a growing demand, therefore emissions will inevitably rise making itharder for environmental organisations to aid in conservation; theoretically,increasing human population creates a higher demand for more industrialisedresources and therefore creates more emissions, meaning more climate change. Inaddition, this source is limited in the fact the it does not describe the exactdamages that an extra 7% of emissions could do to harm the environment. Theincrease in human population will be proportional to the rise in methodsutilised to cope with these changes, thus having little to no effect. It isimportant to consider that It can be argued that climate change is reversibledue to the many schemes set up in recent years to combat greenhouse gases andcarbon dioxide emissions. For instance, the 2015 United Nations Climate ChangeConference, COP 21 which was held in Paris, negotiated the global agreement on thereduction of climate change, representing a cohort of 196 participants. Theoverall aim of the conference was to reach a global agreement on workingtowards the key result of limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees,compared to previous industrial levels”.
Conclusively, the COP 21 agreement isan example of how climate change could be in fact be reversible, similaragreements have also been established, such as the Kyoto Protocol; aninternationally treaty extending the 1992 United Nations Convention on ClimateChange. The Kyoto Protocol states that climate change is extremely likely to bedue to human causes, and therefore due to this it can simultaneously bereversed by human causes. Opposing this view, modern techniques of conservationand renewable energy being used to aid the reversal of climate change, areproven to be too expensive, inefficient and juvenile in effect. Bill Gatesbelieves that renewable energy as of now is needing to improve to combatclimate change. In addition to this, carbon emissions have been proven to be inproportion to capitalism, therefor, a decrease in productivity creates a longerperiod before more effective forms of climate change reversal to be fabricated.
Furthermore, greenhouse gases cause effects over decades, the need to act onemissions rapidly is high, the Kyoto protocol fail to note this.Onthe other hand, while the argument for irreversible climate change still allowsthe idea of human induced climate change being reversible, the awareness ofnatural climate change being an unstoppable influence on climate change coercesbeliefs against reversibility. Evidence of this is stated in “well respected”Australian scientist Jennifer Marohasy research andjournal ‘GeoResJ’, where she and her team – including John Abbot, who has beenresearching on natural data such as rain patterns for 7 years – discover thateven without the industrial revolution global temperatures would be the sametoday, furthermore she also discovered through extensive research on tree ringsand coral cores that global temperatures have been higher before, such as inmedieval times between the period 986to 1234. With this knowledge,it is possible to eliminate the idea of man-made C02 emissions effecting theclimate, causing it to change. This is because, as Marohasy has proven, theglobe fluctuates in its warming over many years, thus can ruling out the ideaof man-made CO2 emissions effecting the climate over a long period of time,hence, if climate change is natural then there is no way to reverse it. Inaddition, the fact of Marohasy being a well-respected scientist shows how theconcept of bias or lying can be fairly farfetched.
As well as this, theresearch conducted on tree rings and coral cores proves climate change to beirreversible, due to the link between history and the earth warming, forexample, if the climate was hotter in medieval times when there was virtuallyno human C02 emission, then the climate warming must have been natural, includingits cooling, therefore, modern day climate change can just be represented bythe slow pattern of change visible throughout history, also the use of naturalresources in the study proves the creditability of the research as it displayshow the research was based off of an extremely reliable source, leading on fromthis the precise data presented boosts the accountability of the research asthe results are reproducibly and able to be tested or conferred against. However,the methods of this study, published in the journal “GeoResJ,”do not provide evidence for its claim that humans are not the primary cause ofglobal warming, while also denying to argue against CO2 causing a heatingeffect and that with increased emissions there will be a rise in temperaturesto some degree, additionally, thestudy relied on several local records of past climate rather than a globalcompilation, and failed to account for the important difference between localand global temperature change and variability. On the other hand, climatechange is irreversible due to the fact that, there is no efficient method forcontributing to reversing the effects of it, for example, as stated in the’spectator’, while renewable wind energy has installed 54 gigawatts of energyinto the world economy, to the nearest 1, this is 0% of the globes energyconsumption, showing zero chance of replacing the 86% of global consumption ofenergy given by unrenewable sources, therefore proving that no modern energy equivalentsare useful enough to be able to reverse climate change. However, the weaknessesto this argument is the denial of the amount of renewable energy currently inuse, because if there was more there would be a higher contribution to theworld energy use, in addition the source only uses wind energy and fails tonote the other sources of renewable energy which make up 1.4% of the worldsenergy consumption.To compare, theargument proving climate change to be reversible is strong in the sense of evidencefor it, for example, data collected in the Kyoto protocol and by the EEA showhow officials have a lot of knowledge on the topic of climate change, such ashow global emissions have dropped by 7%, and how they are able to start takingsteps towards reversing it. In addition to this, the ability to reverse climatechange is a plausible theory, due to the fact that it is known that CO2emissions and greenhouse gases trap heat, therefore by reducing these gasesthen cooling would begin. However, the lack of explanation from alternativessuch as the sun or geothermic activity weakens the theory, as well as the lackof physical evidence.
This is a strength in perspective two though however, forexample the study on tree rings and coral cores by scientist Jennifer Marohasyis direct evidence of the theory of climate change being entirely natural, andtherefore irreversible. Another strength of the second perspective is theargument against modern uses of conservation, for example realising the factthat renewable energy is near to useless shows how climate change cannot bereversed as modern techniques aren’t good enough. Contrary to this though, theweakness of perspective two is the ignorance towards evidence of climate changereversing in places, for example, when china stopped the use of cars for twoweeks in the city of Beijing and the sky turned blue.To conclude, thoughthe question, ‘is climate change irreversible’ is simple to read, it is verycomplex to argue for or against, however it is clear that climate change ishappening and needs to be dealt with. At this moment in time, it may be arguedthat humans have a big responsibility of the climate for future generations,this is because it’s hard to believe that climate change and human developmentare coincidental, however, the idea of natural climate change, whilst being theleast popular has some hard evidence for, and if true could cause the mostdamage to the world. Despite the difference if natural or not, climate changeis a large problem and therefore needs attention.