Discuss the claim that resolving climate change is impossible today.

Author: Chirin Soh
School: Raffles Institution
Year Written: 2019
Grade: N.A.

With news of Koalas being functionally extinct, the disappearance of Iceland’s glacier “Ok”, as well as the lungs of the Earth, the “Amazon Rainforest”, being burned to ashes, resolving climate change seems to be an unattainable goal that we are drifting further and further away from. In today’s world, strong consumerism culture dominates. People buy and throw away their old things with little remorse. Technology and the pursuit of economic gains by the giants of the world paints a bleak picture in the quest to resolve climate change as the burning of fossil fuels are one of its largest contributors. However, I still strongly believe that though resolving climate change may be a Herculean task, it is not impossible with the commitment of government, efforts by eco-conscious firms, the changing mindsets of individuals and the development of new green technology.

Detractors may argue that given the rising populism and conflicting nature of preserving the environment and pursuing economic interests, climate change will not be resolved as governments will not be giving this issue priority. However, governments have a large role to play in setting the regulations for the country in terms of carbon emissions, fossil fuel waste and banning of illegal practices. Brazil’s president, Mr Bolsonaro, instead of pursuing environmentally friendly practices have turned a blind eye to the illegal deforestation and mining in the country as it will bring about economic gains. Such activities have become more frequent since he came into power. in addition, he has rejected help from the G7 nations to stop the fires in the Amazon rainforest. Mr Bolsonaro is backed by the US president, Donald Trump, who responded to the rainforest burning by expressing interest for future, greater, financial partnership with Brazil. This shows the leaders have little concern for the environmental impacts of the rainforest burning and only care about the economic prospects it brings. In addition, Donald Trump has consistent rejected climate change science in favour of his “American First Policy”. Pulling out of the Paris Agreement and removing other regulations previously set in place to prevent climate change has posed a big challenge to the world in tackling this issue as America is seeing the highest levels of carbon emissions lately. This thus poses a big problem to resolving climate change.

However, all is not lost due to strong international co-operations and other governing bodies that have remained committed to solving climate change. The European Union is leading this fight against climate change, especially the French and German governments. They have expressed utmost horror at the Amazon Rainforest burning and are committing billions of dollars to its restoration and preservation. They are also using their power to hold other countries accountable for their actions such as the French president threatening to end a trade deal with Brazil if they do not make attempts to solve the problem. In addition, despite America pulling out, the Paris Agreement can be said to be a success as over 196 countries are still committed to doing their part. Singapore has pledged to resolve carbon emissions by 30% before 2030. Even developing countries like China and India are expressing their commitment and have come up with plans to solve climate change. With the efforts of governments all over the world, it is likely that the problem of climate change can be solved.

Furthermore, the growing market for eco-friendly goods by enlightened consumers have also pushed firms to take steps towards sustainable practices and move towards resolving climate change. Consumers are becoming more educated, either through schools, the Internet, news reports, or other outlets. They are starting to see the real impacts of climate change in the freak weather events, as well as worsening pollution all around the globe. Firms that have engaged in unethical behaviours are readily exposed and have their reputations destroyed. Consumers are quick to share and boycott such brands. For instance, Nestle committed heinous crimes in Ogoniland, resulting in public outcry when the matter was exposed. Volkswagen’s scheme of setting up devices that tricked the carbon emissions test also eroded the faith of its once loyal customers. In a bid to cater to market demand, as well as do their part for the environment, many companies are announcing their new alignment of aims towards being eco-friendly. In terms of sustainable sources, L’Oreal has pledged to only source from ethical and sustainable suppliers. Many high-end fashion labels like Chanel have also stopped using animal fur. KFC, RWS and many other food and beverages companies have decided to stop giving out straws or single use plastics. As over 100 companies account for 70% of the world’s carbon emissions, their commitment to reduce emissions are imperative to resolving the issue of climate change. Many companies are shifting to use clean energy, as incentivised by government grants or high carbon taxes. They also install devices that can convert the negative pollutants to cleaner forms of air and reduce the impact of the environment.

The changing mindsets of individuals on climate change today also make eradicating this issue a realistic aim. Not only are individuals more aware of the severity of the issue, they are also spurred on by activists and inspired to make a difference in their own ways. Greta Thunberg, a 15 year old activities has inspired the fight against climate change. She started “Fridays for Future” by going on strike instead of going to school and managed to get thousands of school children to join her. Her journey across the Atlantic in a boat for 15 days have raised awareness on the impacts of air travel on the environment. She has been giving talks at world conferences and addressing politicians to “Listen to the science” and do their part for climate change. Greta Thunberg has truly served as an inspiration, showing the world that anyone no matter how small can make a difference. Another environmental activist is Leonardo Dicarprio, Oscar-winning actor. He is an ambassador for tackling climate change and advocates strongly for it. His Instagram page has even started to resemble a news site, feed information about climate change to his followers. In recent years, we have seen a rise in an individual’s behaviour to do their part. The metal straw movement, initially brushed across as a “teenage trend”, is here to stay and has reduced the usage of one-time use straws. More consumers are also bring their lunch boxes and bottles when eating takeout. Thrift shopping is also gaining popularity in Singapore. Young shoppers are seeing the impact of fast fashion on the environment and are not buying from brands such as H&M, Cotton On, Uniqlo, etc. Instead, more are choosing to buy second-hand from shops such as New2U, Refash or the Salvation Army. The use of applications such as Carousell have also made it easier for individuals to buy used clothes. This is not only economical, but also reduces waste generated when one discards old clothes. Individuals are also being encouraged to recycle. Countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, have very high recycling culture and recycle the majority of their waste products. Individuals are also increasingly adopting other practices such as shifting to electric cars or going vegan. With the collective efforts of all individuals, resolving climate change is indeed a possibility.

With improvements in green technology, solving climate change will also be possible. Due to the many negative impacts of fossil fuels, renewable energy has arisen as a solution. As its name suggests, renewable energy comes from an infinite source and can last a long time. It is also clean and causes little damage to the environment. The price of renewable energy, such as that of installing solar panels, have fallen significantly in the past few years. Many countries are devoting much of the resources into it. China has installed millions of solar panels, the most in the world, and also invested heavily in hydroelectric dams to provide electricity. Singapore, despite its land scarcity, have also found innovative solutions of installing solar panels on the surface of reservoirs and at the roofs of HDB buildings. Most countries in the world are aiming to change completely to renewable energy in the future. Research is also being conducted for other solutions such as technology to turn carbon dioxide gas emitted to useful energy, vertical farming and other advanced harvesting methods to reduce the strain on land and resources to get the same or even greater yield. Electronic companies are also developing their products to become more energy efficient. Hence, the advancement of technology to create solutions for climate change make resolving it possible.

While we may face countless challenges in the fight to solve climate change, as this quote goes, “Be part of the solution, not the pollution”. It is important to hold firmly to the mindset that it is not impossible to solve climate change today. One should do their part to contribute positively to the environment. It may take awhile for the problem to be completely resolved but with the combined hearts and efforts of governments, firms and individuals, we will see change.

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