210 million people have been displaced by climate change, and that’s just the start.
The Earth, astronomers say, is a Goldilocks planet: not too hot, not too cold, plenty of water and with a hospitable atmosphere. It provides us with the perfect cradle for life. But even this vast, resilient system is struggling to cope with the demands of humans.
Recent headlines about our fast-degrading environment have been nothing short of apocalyptic. Humanity is causing a mass extinction event, with animal populations falling by an average of 60% since 1970, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report.
The equivalent decline in human population would empty North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania.
Although humans make up just 0.01% of all living things, we have wiped out 83% of all wild mammals and half of all plants since the dawn of civilisation. Even if the destruction was to end now, it would take at least five million years for the natural world to recover.
Worldwide, extreme weather events, violent storms, floods and wildfires are quickly increasing in frequency and severity because of the climate chaos our addiction to fossil fuels is causing.
These extremes have forced more than 21 million people from their homes each year since 2008 – around 59,600 people every day, 41 every minute.
Millions more have been forced from their homes, unable to access drinking water or grow food, because of so-called ‘slow onset events’ – rising sea levels or prolonged droughts.
It is the poorest nations on the frontlines of climate change, but there is no doubt that we will all suffer the impacts, and we have already begun to feel them.
In the UK, the Met Office has found that rising temperatures in our atmosphere are causing longer, hotter heatwaves and more erratic bursts of heavy rainfall – putting especially the elderly and weak at risk, and jeopardising agriculture, businesses and economic security.
Sweden this year was forced to call for international aid to tackle the wildfires that were raging within the Arctic Circle. Just last week, in Italy, storms flattened entire forests, washed away roads and devastated coastal towns.
These challenges are international in scope, scale and cause. We can’t solve them by operating alone either as communities or nations. We must work together to end our addiction to carbon and avoid massive global devastation.