Global inflation has reached its highest level since 2008. As per a Swiss Re report, climate change is expected to reduce global economic output by 11-14 percent by 2050, amounting to up to $23 trillion. According to a new study by UCL researchers, by 2100, the GDP could be 37% lower than it would be without the effects of global warming. Climate change will raise temperatures, alter rainfall patterns, endanger biodiversity, raise sea levels, and exacerbate natural disasters, resulting in food insecurity, job loss, increased health risks, and large-scale resettlement.
The sheer magnitude of the problem can make it difficult to process and engage with it meaningfully. Understanding climate change and its effects, is only possible if we abandon our anthropocentric perspective, which regards humans as the most important elements of existence, and embrace an ecocentric perspective, which regards all features of the natural world—including non-living things—as equally important and highly interconnected.
“It is a great testimony to the connectedness of life on earth that the fates of the largest and the tiniest life should be so closely dependent on each other.”
The air we breathe
Air pollution kills over 10 million people each year and reduces human life expectancy by an average of 2.9 years. According to a Greenpeace report, burning gas, coal, and oil causes three times as many deaths as road traffic accidents worldwide, and the economic cost of air pollution is estimated to be $2.9 trillion, or 3.3 percent of global GDP. According to the report, it was also responsible for 1.8 billion days of lost work, 4 million new cases of child asthma, and 2 million preterm births in 2018. The transboundary flow of air pollutants has made sure that no country is immune to its effects. Carbon tax is regarded as a critical measure in the state's efforts to combat climate change. Ireland, for example, has put a price tag of €41 per tonne of CO2 emitted and has committed to raising the carbon tax to €100 per tonne by 2030. The imposition of a flat rate will have differential consequences, disproportionately affecting low-income households. Even the road tax is based on CO2 emissions from vehicles. These carbon taxes will rise gradually, and a new study estimates that the economic damage from CO2 per ton could be more than €2,600, far exceeding the current estimates.
The water we drink
Polluted air leads to global warming and water-related disasters, such as droughts and floods, accounted for roughly 74% of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 . In Europe, torrential rains in July 2021 caused unusually severe flooding and catastrophic losses, particularly in Germany costing €46 billion overall. According to one study, climate change increased the likelihood of deadly floods in Germany by up to 9 times and the costs of such climate change disasters would eventually trickle down to the common man. As water becomes more scarce, we may need to treat increasingly polluted water in order to make it usable. This process consumes a lot of energy and may result in more emissions. This is evidenced by the fact that Irish Water is Ireland's second largest user of electricity in the public sector, consuming 600gwh of energy per year and wastewater assets accounting for 58% of its expenditure. Water will become more expensive to drink, but wastewater will become even more expensive!
The food we eat
Extreme rains can cause runoff and erosion, depleting the soil of essential nutrients needed to sustain agriculture. Reduced precipitation combined with rising temperatures, on the other hand, will result in desertification and the loss of farm production in many areas. Agriculture is important for food security on several levels. First, it produces the food that people eat; second, it is the primary source of income for 36% of the world's workforce. In densely populated Asia and the Pacific, this share ranges from 40 to 50 percent, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture employs 67 percent of the working population. Because of the globalization of food systems, this can have a negative impact on all nations. Thirteen EU member states have declared that they are affected by desertification. The "Climate Change Impacts on the Future Cost of Living" project, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, revealed that low-income households will spend significantly more on food due to the impact of climate change on agriculture by the year 2050.
Here, there, and everywhere!
The butterfly effect is the phenomenon in which a minor localized change in a complex system can have far-reaching consequences elsewhere. Climate change, on the other hand, is a massive global phenomenon that can have big social and economic ramifications in our daily breathing, drinking, and eating patterns! Individual citizens can adopt an eco-centric way of life to combat climate change, but behavioural interventions alone are insufficient. Today's world is overly focused on End of Pipe (EOP) technologies/solutions, whereas today's climate emergency necessitates structural transformations towards lower consumption, functional service economy, renewable sources of energy, climate-friendly technologies and low-carbon equipment and appliances.
Chythenyen is an intern at TASC pursuing his master's in International Relations. He is also a senior editor at "Dublin Law and Politics Review" and an influencer at the "International Council for Circular Economy". He has close to 15 years of experience in activism, social entrepreneurship, waste management and sustainability.