Malwina Chabocka – Art & Design
Malwina Chabocka – Art & Design

If the world is ending in 30 years

Date : Thursday 13 December, 2018

A few weeks ago I read a blood-curling interview with physicist Szymon Malinowski about the consequences of global warming. Malinowski, who is a professor at the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw and co-author of the book Nauka o klimacie (“Climate Science”) holds an extremely grim view of what awaits us in the not-so distant future. To cut the long story short: his prediction is that in 2050 about 80% of people will die. Due the atmospheric concentrations, we’re currently only one degree away from triggering the irreversible process of greenhouse gas emission to the atmosphere, just like fifty-something million years ago when we had the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, the massive carbon injection into the atmosphere, which caused the most severe extinction in tens of millions of years. With the currently observed rate of carbon emissions, it will take about 30 years to raise the temperature by 1.2 degree so unless we rapidly transition towards an emission-free world economy, most of us will be dead. Quite literally. Water shortage will prevent us from cooling power stations which will cause the collapse of the whole power system, transport system, communication and so on. Food will rot, forest burn and with water levels rising in the oceans, lands will be slowly going under water. This is why Malinowski, father of two adult children, is not sure if he wants to have grandchildren.

Of course, not all scientists are so pessimistic or willing to specify a cut-off point (there are even those who belittle or even deny the scale and impact of climate change, but for me they’re in the same league as anti-vaxxers or other conspiracy theory fanatics). However, every respectable scientist will agree that the situation is pretty dangerous. So what does it all mean to you? After the initial pangs of anxiety I felt whilst reading the article, I thought about it calmly. And I came to the following conclusion.

What it means is that you and I should do two things.

Number one: start caring about the planet. I mean: seriously caring, because sorting your rubbish for recycling, which is by all means necessary, isn’t quite enough. Each of us can make a real effort to limit the negative impact we have on the environment. You’ve probably heard of 9 the R’s of a sustainable life: reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, remake, refuse, remember, respect, restore. For me, “reduce” is the particularly important one. You don’t have to throw away all the plastic you have at home or instantly go vegan. But you can reduce your meat consumption, reduce the temptation to buy new clothes from high street shops (did you know that it takes 2,700 litres of water to make one T-shirt? I didn’t) and latest gadgets. Saying no to cheap stuff from China not only saves the environment, it saves people. With the Christmas shopping frenzy approaching, it’s worth knowing that in Yiwu, the Chinese “Christmas village” where 60% of all world decorations are made, people work 11 hours daily, 6-7 days per week. The minimum wage is so low that one is unable to make a living, therefore extra hours are a must and holiday is used as a form of punishment. That’s the price to pay for our stupid Santa baubles. Change your energy providers, stop using disposable batteries, turn off the lights when you leave a room, carry a cotton bag for your shopping, carry a bottle of water, drink tap water at restaurants and ask fellow customers at a supermarket if they really need to put those two carrots into a separate plastic bag. Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth and air-dry your laundry instead of machine dry. Or support Extinction Rebellion and other organisations which are working hard on mobilising the population to achieve system change.

Number two: stop caring about meaningless things. If global warming was indeed to kill off the majority of our population in a mere few decades, would it really matter what so-so is saying about you at work? That some random tv celebrity earns several times more than you, that your friends have been to Asia and you haven’t, that your kid hasn’t won a competition granting him a place at some super-duper school? Is it important what others have to say about your career, hobby, love, etc. choices? Whether your parents agree with your life goals? That your colleague thinks it’s silly that you want to learn to play the guitar and have a band at the age of 40? Does it matter that you’re given weird looks on the bus because you’ve shaved half of your head and the other half is dyed pink? Does it matter that your brother says you’re insane because you want to quit a successful career in law and fundraise for an animal shelter?

Think about what matters. What is worthy your emotions. Thirty years is really not that long. Let’s spend it well and in a way that enables our species to stick around for a bit longer.

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