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The Amazon Rainforest is often at the centre of Global Warming discussions, particularly those about deforestation, and the impact this has globally. At 2.1 million square miles, the Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest; it is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet”. It plays a crucial role in controlling carbon dioxide emissions. This is supported by David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, and 1.5 million children who went on school strike to raise the profile of climate change. Increasing numbers of people now recognise the issue it poses for the current and future generations. Global efforts are required now to reduce the effects, without a joined-up approach changes are unlikely to succeed.
Views on the impact of global warming differ. There are those who believe financial issues, where there may be large scale losses in some industries take precedence. Such as the cost governments may be expected to carry, in order to provide investment to fund alternative ways of heating, travel, and food production. President Trump has publicly stated his views, believing there is no firm and credible evidence to substantiate it. American climate researchers in defence of climate change, argue that President Trump’s views are ‘hopelessly misinformed’. Conversely, 99.99% of authors in peer-reviewed climate change journals and the national academy of science support the assertion that global warming is man-made and is caused by all human activity.
In 2015, the Paris agreement became a “historic” event becoming the first single agreement uniting nearly 200 countries on the issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Dr Bill Hare, a physicist and the lead author on an intergovernmental panel on climate change, states ‘It is a victory for the most vulnerable countries, the small islands, the least developed countries and those with the most to lose, who came to Paris and said they didn’t want sympathy, they wanted action”. There is, however, opposition to the Paris agreement from President Trump; he insists it is a costly and ineffectual solution to the alleged climate crisis, which he believes negatively, affects America’s economic future and capacity for self-government. Considerable data exists to refute this. The evidence produced to ensure this bill was passed is considerable, and the fact that the majority of world leaders signed up for the agreement would suggest that the research undertaken is accurate and comprehensive.
Lauren Bennett, explores the important ecological role forests play in reducing climate change; such as providing homes for many species of plants and animals; providing food, medicine and livelihoods for people around the globe; to the intrinsic values of forests. She insists that these essential ecological necessities are irreplaceable and at-risk and provides evidence to support the argument that deforestation is having a significant impact on the world we live in and that the manner in which we use our natural resources only serves to enhance this.
Lauren Bennett identifies the key factors which contribute to deforestation, each with its own causes and negative environmental impacts. She explores each of these in detail, highlighting that agriculture, raising cattle, and logging is major contributors. She argues that with the increase in deforestation many animal habitats are being lost, with fires pushing animals out of the forest, decreasing biodiversity and increasing the number of endangered and extinct animal species. This would appear to be a rational argument supported by different wildlife groups such as the WWF and esteemed opinions such as Jeffrey Hays and Colin Stief. The article is shown to be robust and credible due to the author’s position as a Research Fellow at the Climate Institute. She is able to make a compelling argument that is relatable to, by referring to well-known companies such as MacDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut who have been deforesting the rainforest in order to raise cattle for their hamburgers. Although some of these companies have made promises to be more environmentally conscious, others have made no plans to move away from this harmful and unnecessary form of animal agriculture. She concludes by saying that if we continue on this path, as much as 55% of the Amazon rainforest could disappear by 2030. She also states that the next generation, environmentally conscious and ready to foster change, maybe the final key to unlocking the preservation and protection of forests and protecting the Amazon, ending on a positive note for the future.
The second source ‘Deforestation explained’ explores the growing concern of worldwide actions on deforestation and supports the assertion that there is a correlation between our behaviours and deforestation, causing the situation to worsen. Christina Nunez writing for National Geographic explores this, she has covered issues relating to energy for the website, she is, therefore, a very credible opinion on this subject and writes knowledgeably about it.
She asserts that forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometres) of the forest. Since humans started cutting down forests, ‘Nature’. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed over the past 50 years, and losses recently have been on the rise. There is a consensus opinion amongst all of the sources chosen, that farming, grazing of livestock, mining, and drilling combined, account for more than half of all deforestation. Nunez balances this by highlighting that there is also some deforestation which is unintentional. Some are caused by a combination of human and natural factors like wildfires and overgrazing. In this statement, she is demonstrating her awareness of wider issues contributing to the same outcome.
Nunez states that we need trees for a variety of reasons, as they absorb not only the carbon dioxide that we exhale but also the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that human activities emit. It is these human activities that need to be identified and reduced. She suggests that tropical tree cover alone can provide 23 percent of the climate mitigation needed over the next decade to meet goals set in the Paris Agreement in 2015. Consequently, there needs to be a marked reduction in the felling of trees, a reduction in over-farming to supply meat which is exported to the west, and a reduction in the number of trees cut down as a result of growing urban sprawl as land is developed for homes. The evidence produced in this article supports the contention put forward by the author of my first source that by changing human behaviour it is possible to mitigate against climate change Nunez refers to data to support her reasoning.
The third source focuses on behaviours closer to home and, is a series of Panorama programmes produced by the BBC in October and November 2019. The first programme ‘Climate change, what can we do?’ focuses on the changes a family of four based in England can make to reduce their carbon footprint. The researcher and writer for this programme were Professor Mike Berners-Lee, a researcher and writer on carbon footprinting at Lancaster University in England. The reporting highlighted the UK governments’ commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to zero. It also reinforced the argument that there is a great deal of confusing information in the public arena. By focusing on the everyday activities of a typical family; the programme highlights how every activity has a carbon footprint, with the average footprint for a family of four, at 52 tonnes. It highlights that meat and dairy consumption has a significantly high footprint due to the methane produced by cattle, the distances such products are imported from if not locally sourced; the impact of heating homes on the increased use of fossil fuels and the use of cars powered by petrol and diesel. Whilst the programme explores the overwhelming amount of information available, it manages to demonstrate how subtle changes can have an impact on global warming and suggests that if every individual household made changes to their way of life there could be a considerable improvement in climate change. It also considers the positive effects of mandatory environmental food labelling, lower impact food production, increased incentives for farmers, increased infrastructure to support the use of electric cars and the need to change the biggest challenge of sustainable housing. The programme provided a consistent message, using easily understandable comparisons whilst offering achievable solutions.
The second programme ‘Meat – a threat to our planet’ was presented by Liz Bonnin, (a biochemist, and conservationist) it referred to more global issues and the impact the meat industry is having on greenhouse gases. The reporting in this programme was more shocking in its message, highlighting that meat production is one of the biggest threats to the environment. The presenter visited different areas where meat production and the rearing of cattle are high and demonstrated how the practices used by farmers not only destroyed wildlife and the natural environment but also resulted in the production of more greenhouse gases than all the combined modes of transport around the world. It reported on the whole scale destruction of the Amazon rainforest with 20 per cent of land lost to grazing cattle, which could be translated into an area three times the size of the UK being cleared of trees. The message from this documentary was clear, that ‘cattle were literally eating the forest’. Over 200 million cattle were believed to be grazing on farmland now cleared, no doubt increasing the Brazilian economy but also contributing to changing weather patterns across the globe. The visual images shown in this documentary provided a clear and relevant message. The apparent damage shown by deforestation to wildlife and plant life was powerful. The supporting academics of this programme, Professor Tim Benton an expert on food systems, sustainability, climate change and biodiversity and Dr Tara Garnett whose work focuses on the contribution that food systems make to greenhouse emissions for the Food Climate Network, only serve to reinforce its credibility.
Throughout the three sources, there seems to be a consistent message, that deforestation significantly impacts on climate change. The consensus appears to be that climate change cannot be stopped, but by raising individual awareness it can be stopped from getting worse. The world is in big trouble. Over the coming 25 or 30 years, scientists say, the climate is likely to gradually warm, with more extreme weather, already demonstrated by the severe flooding in England over the past couple of years. Longer-term, if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked, scientists fear climate effects may become so severe that they might have other social effects for instance the increased movement of people across borders, causing economic difficulties for governments.
There is an irrefutable amount of evidence demonstrating that lifestyle choices are boosting the process of deforestation. Encouraging each individual to limit their consumption of red meat, reducing their personal carbon footprints and recognising that each person is contributing is essential. Such risks are happening now, which each individual person must accept some responsibility for. There are realistic solutions to the problems but change is happening too slowly. Society has put off action for so long that the risks are now severe, scientists say. Whilst climate change seems overwhelming, the most important thing an individual can do is to speak up and demand change. Local communities need to come together to develop practical solutions to make their environment more climate-friendly.
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