Almost every time I look at a newspaper, including, of course, the Sentinel Times, there is mention of climate change. I’m not sure whether I should rejoice that the importance of this issue is eventually being recognised or I should be alarmed as this may indicate that the serious consequences of climate change are so apparent that not to acknowledge its reality is willfully ignoring the evidence around us.
Certainly not every natural disaster can be blamed on climate change, but it is difficult to ignore its role when we consider the severity and number of incidents that the world is experiencing.
For those of us who live near the beach, it is easy to see the damage caused to the coast by rising sea levels, which in turn, are caused by global warming. Of course, our coast has always changed, but not so dramatically or at such a fast pace as now.
The main (but certainly not only) greenhouse gas that is causing climate change is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). It is more difficult to appreciate the effect of CO2 on life in our oceans than it is on land. Briefly, at least one-quarter of CO2 released by burning coal, oil and gas doesn’t stay in the air, but instead dissolves into the ocean.
This slows warming of the planet, which is positive, but it is not without a cost. Dissolving CO2 makes the ocean more acidic and this affects sea life. The shells of some sea animals are already dissolving and fish in some areas are going blind because of rising acidity. Jellyfish are not affected as they have no shell, bones or eyes.
Their numbers are increasing. The increase is spurred on by warming waters (warm water helps benefits their reproduction), pollution (unlike other sea creatures, they don’t need much oxygen) and overfishing (less competition for resources).
Few people had heard about ocean acidification and its disastrous effects when local climate action group, Groundswell Bass Coast, presented a forum about this problem in 2011. In fact, the term was first coined by scientists in 2003. Recently, there has been more mention of it in the media, but still, most people look blankly when ocean acidification is mentioned. My husband, Ray Dahlstrom, has been painting pictures about the rise of jellyfish since 2011 and in 2014, held an exhibition called ‘Jellyfish and Chips with Lots of Sauce.’ Recently, there have been a number of articles in the media suggesting that this may, indeed, be a something we need to consider.
Even among the many who understand that scientists are not lying and climate change and ocean acidification are not invented by some left wing conspiracy, there are many who advocate leaving action to ‘others’, whoever those ‘others’ may be. One of the cries is, ‘We don’t have the money.’ Another is, ‘Whatever we do, it won’t make any difference.’
As for money, climate change is costing money and lives; conversely, addressing climate change can save money and lives. Consider the money that needs to be spent cleaning up after disasters. Consider not only lives lost in disasters, but by such things as heat stroke and the recent phenomenon of storm asthma. Consider the money that can be saved by such measures as installing solar panels.
Consider the money that can be saved with no outlay, by understanding ways to reduce our impact on climate, such as turning off lights, eating less meat, lowering the thermostat, unplugging appliances and walking or riding a bike instead of taking the car on short trips.
As for us not making any difference, if everyone says that, nothing will happen. It is only by a collective effort that the problem can begin to be addressed. Governments at all levels must lead by example and education. Making excuses is not an option.
Bron Dahlstrom, Inverloch.