Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, are the result of geological processes acting on organic matter over many years – these fossil fuels all store carbon. When burning these fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, that has been stored away for millions of years, is released back into the atmosphere. Other greenhouse gases, such as methane, nitrous oxide and water vapour can also be released during this process.
The greenhouse effect is a natural process in which greenhouse gases absorb heat from the Sun that is reflected off the Earth’s land and oceans, this warms the lower atmosphere. Without this natural process, the Earth will not be able to sustain life – the average global temperature would be -18 degrees Celsius, rather than the current average of 14 degrees Celsius. Increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, resulting from anthropogenic actives, have resulted in the enhanced greenhouse effect. Higher concentration of greenhouse gases have led to increased trapping of infra-red radiation from the sun, causing the Earth’s global average temperature to rise. Ultimately, this has led to changes in the climate and weather. Knock on effects of these changes include: heatwaves, melting ice caps, mega-floods, mega-droughts, forest fires, species extinction and extreme weather conditions. Impacts of these changes destroy food supplies, destabilise regions, increase airborne disease and force people from their homes. Recently, we have been seeing an increasing number of people fleeing lands that have been impacted by the climate crisis.
The issue goes even deeper than this. The climate crisis is a crisis of inequality, caused by unjust economic structures that have the greatest impact on poor people, people of colour and women around the world.
The climate crisis is the inevitable result of 500 years of global extractivism and exploitation – a system that puts profits above people. Birmingham, being a major industrial city for the last 200 years, has been the powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Birmingham’s carbon footprint during that time was immense. Therefore we have a moral and historic responsibility to end the use of fossil fuel and make a just transition to an energy efficient, low carbon economy as soon as possible. The international community have accepted, for a long time, that climate change will poorly impact humans, but efforts to agree to legally binding emission cuts have been underwhelming.
Runaway climate change is becoming increasingly likely as political squabbling and inaction from some of the biggest polluters at successive UN summits have left us with little time to reduce emission until we reach the tipping point. We are in urgent need of strong leadership and a global deal on emissions before it is too late. The UK government has commitment to being net zero by 2050, but this is too late. Birmingham City Council has passed a motion committing to being net zero by 2030, but so far has failed to back this up by strong action. Now is a more crucial time than ever to get involved and make sure our politicians deliver on their promises.
Read our “solution” to find out what can be done about this.