One of the biggest debates of the 21st Century so far has been over climate change, a.k.a global warming. The scientific consensus and resultant media coverage has asserted its reality, and the opposition says it is a misunderstanding of data at best, and a hoax or conspiracy at worst.
I think both sides are missing the point. The truth of claims that human activity (carbon emission, to be precise) is causing the climate to change in the ways we are seeing, such as rising sea levels and global temperatures is sort of irrelevant, despite being glaringly obvious. I think a simple word change can end the angry debate and unify people to action, which is what really matters here. Whilst we stand around arguing about whether or not we’re the direct cause of the world changing to the point of being uninhabitable for humans, that change is happening anyway.
I think it would be much smarter and more efficient to agree to disagree about the matter of climate change and start talking about pollution instead. There are three reasons for this.
Although I definitely think we are the cause of the climate changing as drastically as it is, the problem with the argument is that there is room for doubt.
With pollution, this is not the case: there is no way to deny that humans are poisoning the world in a variety of different ways. Plastic is flowing into the oceans, climbing up the food chain and is now even getting into human food. Deforestation continues to rage through many areas of the world, species are going extinct at an alarmingly faster rate than they have in the past, cities suffer terrible air pollution…the list goes on.
Pollution is so much easier to understand than climate change, which is quite a vague and general idea, and therefore makes it easier to solve.
Really understanding how the climate changes and all the factors that are involved in it is a hugely complicated task, and you could even say it’s impossible, as everything has an impact on the climate. The climate is everything. The most simple definition of the climate is the sum total of all the interconnecting systems on Earth (i.e. the atmosphere) and it’s hard to think of a natural process that doesn’t in some way have an effect on the climate.
So human activity in climate change is only part of the picture, and that’s where the disagreement comes in. Pollution, on the other hand, is way more simple. Whilst climate change can be argued to be the result of human activity, pollution is human activity. This simplicity and difference in kind allows action to be taken so much more easily, instead of vaguely trying to ‘reduce your carbon footprint’, or ‘stop climate change’.
Since pollution is actually an activity, it not only makes it easier to deal with than an idea (which was my second reason) but leads you directly to action.
Since polluting is something that is done, the solution is to stop doing it. Obviously, it’s not as simple as this, but it’s at least simpler than trying to work out how to solve climate change – something not everybody even agrees exists anyway. Focussing on pollution makes humans so much more accountable and responsible as it's about cleaning up our mess, but it also enables us to actually do something in a much more effective way than talking about climate change does.
Here are four ways to try and make a difference it’s the usual stuff but it’s definitely worth repeating:
Drive only when necessary: public transport is good and cycling if you can manage it is even better. If it’s a tiny drive down the road to pick something up from the shop, consider walking. It’s much healthier, both for your mind, your body and the planet.
Refuse single-use plastic like straws, coffee lids (unless you’re about to run!), bottles and bags. Have a refillable bottle with you – this will help you keep hydrated as well!
Organise your trash. The less we’re putting in a landfill the better.
Write to your MP, a lot. If we all bug those that represent us enough, the desire to reduce pollution and clean up what is already out there might make it through to Parliament. This could take the form of encouraging renewables, introducing better recycling policies and pushing for a move away from fossil fuels.