On 8th October this year, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their latest report. Using over 6000 scientific papers, the group found that the dangers posed by climate change are much more pressing than previously anticipated. They estimated that we have 12 years to keep global warming to a maximum increase of 1.5°C, beyond which even 0.5°C will cause catastrophic and irreparable damage. The changes necessary, as outlined by the panel, would need to be swift, drastic and implemented as soon as possible.

In UCD, the environment is certainly a growing concern. Organisations such as UCD Environmental Policy, UCD Earth Institute and Eco UCD are committed to furthering the fight against climate change. Improvements such as the addition of recycling bins in the Sutherland building and concessions for using reusable cups are milestones in combatting UCD’s overall contribution to the environment. However, these are small steps, and much more is needed, even in UCD.

They estimated that we have 12 years to keep global warming to a maximum increase of 1.5°C, beyond which even 0.5°C will cause catastrophic and irreparable damage.

The day after the IPCC report was released, the Irish Budget was announced. Over 300 people protested outside Dáil Éireann on 16th October, including many UCD students, on the topic of climate change and for the government to increase their role in combating it. Minister Paschal Donohoe mentioned a few measures that would be taken to reduce emissions, but these look unlikely to see Ireland reach its carbon reduction goals in 2 years. Policies mentioned by Donohoe may increase the amount received by the Exchequer, but won’t necessarily act as a deterrent to the targeted parties. A prime example of this is a 1% surcharge on diesel vehicles.

Climate change also has its fair share of naysayers, as it is with any debate that has become politicised. One of the more vocal deniers of global warming was US President Donald Trump, who recently changed his stance from calling it a hoax, to acknowledging its existence but offering the vague, unsupported rebuttal that it “could very well go back.” Despite America having the second-highest carbon dioxide emissions after China, its stance on global warming is far out of line with other advanced countries.

When the news broke that we have only 12 years at most to drastically change our ways, coverage waned within a couple of days

For a topic of its magnitude and gravity, climate change is given proportionally little coverage by the mass media. When the news broke that we have only 12 years at most to drastically change our ways, coverage waned within a couple of days. In a world full of sensationalism, clickbait and bite-sized information, important news like this gets scrolled past and ignored. In fact, in a bid to make the US government address climate change, US students are suing the government for its unconstitutional negligence. This shows the lengths at which people will go to be listened to. It is becoming ever easier to turn a blind eye to climate change and avoid the harsh truth.

There are many harmful views and perspectives on climate change, some of which can be easily debunked. Even if the world is doomed, as some say, why would someone use that as a reason to accelerate the rate at which the Earth is dying? This is the same logic as saying “You Only Live Once” before performing something idiotic which reduces, either slowly or at breakneck speed, one’s lifespan. This could be rebutted with “You Only Die Once” which is equally true for humans as it is for our planet. Every action still has consequences. With every right comes a responsibility, and we would do well to remind ourselves of this when we consider global warming especially.  

Droughts, storms and rising sea levels will be become even more frequent as time progresses.

Additionally, the cost of implementing preventative measures is miniscule in comparison to the cost of what will happen to the Earth in the long term if global warming continues on its current track. Droughts, storms and rising sea levels will be become even more frequent as time progresses. Trump argues that he doesn’t want to put America at a disadvantage by dealing with climate change at the level advised by the IPCC. While this may be an economically sound decision in the short term, the US has way more to lose in the long term by doing nothing. Preventive maintenance proves to be more effective than corrective maintenance time and again.

While they are few, there are reasons for optimism in the face of global warming. While we don’t have much time, 12 years is not nothing. It’s not just the responsibility of government bodies to make changes – everyone has a role to play. We control how much we consume, and we have the power to change. Even small changes we’ve been taught since we started school, like turning off lights and taps, and using public transport instead of cars, add up to cause a large reduction in our carbon footprint.

Climate change is far from just our generation’s problem, but it is a problem for our generation. It is vital that we make the necessary changes now to reap the long-term benefits. While we may not see these developments immediately, they will be tangible, with cleaner air, less pollution and hopefully fewer natural disasters. There is a lot of work involved but by accounting for the climate in our daily lives, we can make the load manageable. The small changes will add up, and if we begin now, the bigger changes for the future won’t have to be as big.