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Since the Industrial Revolution, the earth has experienced an increase in temperature that is altering the way people are living. From Margaret Thatcher’s United Nations speech back in 1989, there has been the question as to if climate change is even something humans need to fix. While some may disagree, the United Nations’ efforts to eliminate climate change is definitely a necessity. If something is not done to stop climate change, rising sea levels will cause massive flooding that will result in spending money on infrastructure. Third world countries will face many hardships financially to deal with natural disasters. Cities will become overpopulated. Crop failure will cause a shortage of food. And the increase in warmer climates will increase disease and illness rates. All of these horrendous events have already started and the only effective way to stop them is by getting full participation in the United Nations Paris Agreement.
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher spoke to the United Nations general assembly in 1989 to discuss the growing “threat to our global environment.” It was one of the first major speeches against climate change and led to the United Nations making climate change a high priority to stop. Thatcher states that one of the main evidence supporting climate change is the melting polar ice caps. A letter from the British Antarctic Survey stated “in the Polar Regions today, we are seeing what may be early signs of man-induced climate change” (1989). Fast forwarding to the present day, both Greenland and the eastern side of Antarctica are experiencing ice melting at an alarming rate (Smith, 2016). This, in turn, is causing a rising sea level. The rising sea level is already affecting coastal villages in Bangladesh and will continue to flood the flat country as temperatures rise. A rising sea level will not just affect Bangladesh however; it will also affect most of the United States Atlantic coast costing the government millions to provide development to stop the wetlands from flooding into cities and streets (Titus, 2009). The United States Environmental Protection Agency already provided 2 million dollars in 2007 to stop the flooding and is expected to spend more when sea levels rise more (Titus, 2009). Instead of spending government money on fixing the problems rising sea levels are causing, it should go to stopping climate change so that rising sea levels are no longer a problem.
Unlike the United States who can pay to fix the problems started by climate change, developing countries such as Bangladesh are not as lucky. As mentioned before, Bangladesh is experiencing flooding issues due to the rising sea levels. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is a third world country that does not have the economic ability to pay for the infrastructure needed to keep the water out (Smith, 2016). Coastal villages in Bangladesh are losing their houses and farmlands forcing many families to relocate to the cities. Dhaka, the capital and most populated city of Bangladesh, also experiences flooding that the government cannot pay to control (Smith, 2016). Villagers going to these cities not only have to change their way of life but also have to adjust to living far below the poverty line. Dhaka, and other third world cities just like it, mainly consist of low paying blue collar jobs that do not give enough money to be above the poverty line (Smith, 2016). Climate change is ruining the lives of the people of Bangladesh and other third world countries. According to the United Nations, climate change will cause countries vulnerable to the rising sea level, mostly consisting of third world countries, up to 168 billion of debt (UNFCCC, 2018). This debt is close to impossible for countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Haiti, and Fiji to pay off. “Climate finance becomes more expensive over time if action is not taken quickly” (UNFCCC, 2018). This means that fixing climate change as immediate as possible is the most optimal way third world countries, the United States, and the rest of the world will avoid major debt.
Besides rising sea levels and massive debt, climate change will also lead to crop failure and food shortage. Some might claim that climate change will benefit food production because of more carbon dioxide and longer harvesting season. However, foods like corn, rice, potatoes, and wheat are all experiencing a production drop due to pests. The rise in temperatures is causing an increasing population of insects that are eating crops resulting in a 24% decrease in corn, 11% decrease in rice, 9% decrease in potatoes, and 3% decrease in wheat (“How to Live with it,” 2018). With a rising global population, a decrease in food supply due to climate change will result in higher food prices and more people living in poverty. While this may not have the biggest effect on the average middle-class American family, the people of Somalia will suffer huge consequences. A United Nation report states that “70 percent of the population [of Somalia] is dependent on climate-sensitive agriculture and pastoralism” (n.d.). In other words, out of the 14.8 million people currently living in Somalia, around 10.4 million will not have enough food to survive. Other countries in Asia are experiencing the same thing. In China for example, “climate change will result in increasing spring wheat crop failure in northeast China due to increasing extremes of both heat and water stress” (Challinor et al, 2010, pg 7). China has almost 1.4 billion people to feed so any decrease in food production will result in wheat cost going up and more people going hungry. Other places in Asia, Africa, and South America are all likely to experience the same food crisis that Somalia and China are experiencing. (“How to Live with it,” 2018). It is why making an effort in fixing climate change as early as possible is such a necessity.
One of the side effects of climate change is more people fleeing to cities due to crop failure and rising sea levels. Adding to the fact that the Earth is overpopulated makes this side effect even worse. Thatcher states that there were only 2 billion people on Earth when she was born but her grandson will be raised in a world with 6 billion people (1989). Today, there is a global population of almost 8 billion people; 1.97 of those 8 billion live in an urban area (Montgomery, 2008). According to the United Nations Population Division, two-thirds of the population will live in urban areas by 2050 (Montgomery, 2008). Already densely packed cities, particularly the cities in third world countries, like Dhaka have very low standards of living that causes higher amounts of theft and poverty (Smith, 2016). Furthermore, “Many developing country policy makers … have not infrequently acted on concerns with aggressive tactics aiming to expel slum residents and repel rural-to-urban migrants” (Montgomery, 2008, pg 763). This shows that these fast-growing cities have no insurance of ever raising the standard of living to the formal rural citizens. To continue, the bigger the city, the more pollution it releases making climate change even worse. According to C40, a program to lower cities’ carbon emissions around the world, cities release 70 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions (n.d.). These emissions rates will only increase when cities around the world get overpopulated because more people will result in more transportation, more electricity, and more infrastructure. To summarize, climate change must be fixed to lower these city growth rates and to overall raise the standard of living in these cities.
On top of everything else, climate change is also increasing disease and illness rates around the world. Warmer temperatures are increasing the population of insects that are not only affecting our crops but spreading diseases as well. National Geographic (2018) states that by 2080, ticks, which are one of the main insects that spread Lyme disease, will inhabit most of the United States east coast. Furthermore, the rising temperatures are bringing more mosquitoes causing diseases like malaria to come back in higher numbers; 50 of the mosquitoes species spreading malaria are becoming resistant to the insecticides used to kill them (Patz, Epstein, Burke, and Balbus, 1996). This is a big problem because the rising population of disease spreading insects will infect much of the world leaving many dead and many more sick. Also, there will be less protection towards these insects as they become more resistant to insecticides. Lowering the overall temperature of the planet is the only long term effective way to reduce insect populations. In addition, increasing temperatures are leading to long and more intense heat waves. In 2003, summer heat waves in England and Wales resulted in 17% more deaths, 2000 people, from the average death count while in France deaths increased by 60% or 14,000 people (Haines, Kovat, Campbell-Lendrum, and Corvalan, 2006). These numbers will only increase as heat waves become more severe and more frequent from climate change. As mentioned before, climate change is causing people to move into cities, like Dhaka, that leave its citizen in poor living conditions that are dirty and falling apart. These densely packed cities allow diseases to spread much faster compared to less urban places. To add, third world cities like Dhaka do not have access to clean water or good plumbing systems leaving many living in contaminated and infected homes (Smith, 2016). Disease and illness are getting worse due to humans warming up the planet.
Since Margaret Thatcher’s speech, the United Nations has made it clear that their goal is to stop climate change as much as possible. Goal 13 has already started fighting climate change with the Paris Agreement. This agreement essentially states that any country who ratifies it will make an effort to lower their carbon footprint so that the global temperature will not exceed 2-degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels (“The Paris Agreement,” 2018). Some claim that the United Nations’ effort to fixing climate change is unnecessary and will only waste money. Part of the United Nations’ goal is to get developed countries, such as the United States, to contribute a collective total of 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 to pay for projects that will lower climate change (“Goal 13: Climate Action,” n.d.). While it may cost developed countries a lot of money in the beginning, it will ultimately pay off in the long run. Making an effort to fix climate change now will lead to less spending on infrastructure to stop the rising sea levels. It will lead to higher food production so people will not have to go into poverty and starvation. It will even lead to less disease spreading that will allow more people to be healthy and stay at work which ultimately boost up the economy. Yes, 100 billion dollars sounds like a lot to ask for something that many people do not think is necessary to fix. However, the overall reward in taking action now instead of waiting even longer have far more value than 100 billion dollars.
Climate change is negatively affecting more than just the weather. It is making the sea levels rise, the poor countries to get poorer, the crops to fail, the cities to overpopulate, and the diseases to spread. There must be global action to stopping climate change even if some people claim it will be too expensive. With the United Nations’ Paris Agreement, there is a standing chance of global action on lowering the carbon footprint humans have made since the industrial revolution. Hopefully, the United Nations will succeed in their goal so the Earth will never have to experience temperatures above 2 Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
- Challinor, A, J., Simelton, E, S., Fraser, E, D., Hemming, D., & Collins, M. (2010, September 7). Increased crop failure due to climate change: assessing adaptation options using models and socio-economic data from wheat in China. IOP publishing.
- C40. (n.d.). A global opportunity for cities to lead. Retrieved from https://www.c40.org/why_cities
- Haines, A., Kovats, R., Campbell-Lendrum, D., & Corvalan, C. (2006, March 20). Climate change and human health: impacts, vulnerability and public health. Royal institute of public health, 586-96.
- Montgomery, M. (2008, February 8). The urban transformation of the developing world. Sciencemag, 319(1), 761-63.
- National geographic. (2018). How to live with it 5 ways climate change will affect you. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/climate-change/how-to-live-with-it/index.html
- Patz, J., Epstein, P., Burke, T., & Balbus, J. (1996, January 17). Global climate change and emerging infectious diseases. JAMA, Vol 275, No. 3, 217-23.
- Smith, S. (2016, January 11). Our Rising Oceans (VICE on HBO: Season 3, Episode 1). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp6_sDiup6U
- Thatcher, M. (1989, November 8). Speech to united nations general assembly. New york: United nations.
- Titus, J G. (2009, October 27). State and local governments plan for development of most land vulnerable to rising sea level along the US atlantic coast. IOP publishing.
- UN climate change news. (2018, July 3). Climate change is driving debt for developing countries. UNFCCC. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/news/climate-change-is-driving-debt-for-developing-countries
- UN climate change news. (2018, October 22). The Paris Agreement. UNFCCC. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
- UN environment. (n.d.). Goal 13: climate action. Retreived from https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/sustainable-development-goals/why-do-sustainable-development-goals-matter/goal-13
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