A few days ago, an Instagram environmental activist page hopped on the bandwagon of a popular meme and pop culture trend which originated from ‘Spotify 2020 wrapped’ which consists of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter users sharing their Spotify user summary listing their most listened songs and artists throughout 2020. Meme creators have used the same format and spun it off with their own twist, such as depreciating humor, or simply just sharing funny music. And in the case of @everythingclimatechange on Instagram, their twist was a 2020 update on the climate.
So let’s explore the 2020 Climate Wrapped
The average global temperature is 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels
What does ‘above pre-industrial levels’ mean? It means that average temperature (January 2020 to October 2020) is 1.2°C above the 1850–1900 baseline. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), scientists used a baseline to measure global temperatures – a time when fossil-fuel burning had yet to change the climate at such a high noticeable rate. At the moment the period between 1850 and 1900 is used which means that 1.5°C is the baseline. WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas stresses that as “There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C by 2024”.
Just because the average temperature hasn’t reached 1.5°C, it doesn’t mean that the effects are not serious or that we still have time. According to NASA, even if the temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C, sea level will continue to rise, as heat already stored in the oceans from human-produced warming causes them to expand.
The top corporate plastic polluters:
According to the Guardian, these 3 brands were accused of “zero-progress” for the year 2020. Coca-Cola in particular turns out to pollute the earth with more plastic than PepsiCo and Nestlé combined. Coca-Cola produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year, an equivalent to 200,000 bottles per minute.
In 2020, the company is still stern on producing single-use plastic bottled cola. Bea Perez, the Senior Vice President reasoned their decision, ‘Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight’. The firm tried to compromise by making a pledge to recycle as many Coca-Cola bottles as possible. However, this does not appease environmental activists, as pledging ‘as much as possible’ means that there will still be tremendous amounts of plastic Coca-Cola bottles that end up in landfills and the sea.
Unilever, one of the biggest multinational consumer goods companies which owns brands like Lipton, Rexona and Cif, have been revealed to produce 70,000 tonnes pollution footprint per year! Along with the brands mentioned above, the public claim that these companies lack a sense of morality for contributing such amounts of plastic pollution today. In response to this, Unilever has made a statement about their awareness and mentioned the commitments they want to partake in to reshape plastic use by 2025, such as halving their use of virgin plastic and and a reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use.
5. Mondelēz International
Out of the 5 companies, Mondelēz International seems to have made a lasting impression that they have become progressive and all in to reduce plastic pollution. Just by searching on Google “Mondelēz International’s plastic pollution” , the first two pages are filled with articles that are leaving positive and optimistic remarks. The American multinational food company, who owns companies like Cadbury, Oreo and Sour Patch Kids, have announced to collaborate across the industry to work on the policy, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). According to Britannica: EPR is a practice and a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers. Responsibility for disposal may be fiscal, physical, or a combination of the two.
Atmospheric CO2 levels reached a record high of 418.32 ppm (parts-per-million)
Even with the reduced carbon emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rate has not decreased and has stayed higher than 2019’s atmospheric CO2 level (414.7 ppm). This begs the question, how much higher would the rate be today if there was no Covid-19?
The pandemic has been great to force a steep decrease on carbon emissions. In 2020, the global carbon emission rate has dropped to 7% as less people are traveling in transportation and factories had to go through a shut down as people isolate themselves. However, this jarring decrease is only temporary and is not as effective as it sounds. The secretary general of World Meteorological Organization (WMO) noted that: “The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve”
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef experiences its 3rd mass coral bleaching in 5 years
Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found that 25 percent of the overall reef was severely bleached. Worse, the bleaching reached the coastal sides. Just as related to the carbon emissions mentioned above, bleaching of the coral reef happens because of rapid warming of the planet.
According to EcoWorld, the Great Barrier Reef indeed bleaches from time to time due to natural seasonal warming of the planet. However, in the case of 2002 and 2017, it was definitely our fault, just like for this year’s mass coral bleaching too. 2020’s coral mass bleaching was not the largest in terms of the span of corals bleaching, but rather was the second most severe on record. According to CNN, scientists found the damages are likely to be lasting and irreparable.
Apart from carbon emissions, other factors such as cosmetic chemicals also contribute to bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, especially sunscreen (read more about how sunscreens damage the corals)
This is the hottest decade on record, with the hottest six years occurring since 2015
According to the Guardian, the past decade was the hottest, and 2019 comes in top three for the hottest year. It is no news that the world gets hotter by each decade since the pre-industrial era. However The average rise in temperature per decade is 0.7°C, and for this decade, the average had increased to a whopping of 0.39°C.
Because of 2019’s rising temperature and an expected lack of progress, Karin Gleason, a NOAA climatologist said 2020 was suspected to become hotter and beat 2016 by 75%, 2016’s record – global temperature mean (0.99°C / 1.78°F), the hottest temperature recorded in 2016 was 51.0°C / 123.8°F in India. However, due to the pandemic, the percentage had decreased to 50%
California’s record-breaking wildfire season
The 2020 California Wildfire Season is currently an ongoing fire crisis.
In mid September, no one expected a gender-reveal party would be the cause of one of the top biggest wildfires of California, ever. As gender-reveal parties have become more trendy and a ‘once in a lifetime’, this family wanted to make sure they hold one that would become memorable by using a ‘pyrotechnic device’, starting the El Dorado Fire. Before that, California’s forests have been burning as well as normal, the common hot and dry weather of California plays a part.
The ongoing fire is not only life-threatening to the residents of California, but it was extremely detrimental to the environment. Especially in Covid-19, firefighters are not only under risk of extinguishing fires but also of contracting the virus. California will always have wildfires in 2020. It has started since May in Kings, the named fire, Interstate 5 has burned 2,060 acres. In August, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that the state was burning from 367 known fires, many of which were sparked by intense thunderstorms. According to Cal Fire over 9,639 fires have burned 4,359,517 acres
What scientists concluded was that “fire seasons like this one will be more common as drier, hotter conditions wrought by climate change continue to result in larger, more intense fires” the last recorded wildfire was in December 13 at Riverside
The top polluting countries are
China’s growth has been powered by the cheap and extremely polluting fossil fuel, coal, which is the power source to people’s homes and also industries and factories that sell lots of exports. The use of coal has contributed to the worst case of air pollution in China. According to Environment-Ecology, 75% of the premature deaths are caused by the 152 coal-fired power plants in Hebei Province.
According to Active Sustainability, The US is “the biggest industrial and commercial power”. Even with active commitment and effort to reduce pollution, the US still ranks in second place as big cities are still producing emissions and recently, rural area are beginning to be affected.
Same as China, India’s industrialization main energy source is burning of the fossil fuels. According to the World Health Organization, 14 out of 15 most polluted cities are part of India. The Indian Express shows the pollution in India is caused by industrial pollution (51%), vehicles (27%), crop burning (17%) and fireworks (5%).
Corrosion Doctors says that power-plants in Russia “lack modern pollution control equipment, resulting in large amounts of toxic emissions and waste” As being another country with huge industrial demands, Russia is dependent on cheap and polluting fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas.
Japan has a reputation of modern and progressive urban development and industrialization. According to AZO Cleantech, Japan’s rapid growth has been beginning since the 19th century, therefore the dependence on coal, wood and gas produces a lot of emissions and waste.
@everythingclimatechange was very direct with their conclusion. Essentially, the planet is not getting better and to prevent an irreversible consequence, we have to give effort now.
Reversing of climate change and reducing of pollution is no new topic. We are/were taught about it in schools and are encouraged to make better choices for the environment by people around us and in the media.
The pandemic has let us isolate ourselves and reflect on what is a necessity and creative ways we can introduce into our new life schedule that could help with the issue.
“2020 on track to be one of three warmest years on record ….” 2 Dec. 2020, https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/2020-track-be-one-of-three-warmest-years-record. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.
“A Degree of Concern: Why Global Temperatures Matter ….” 19 Jun. 2019, https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2865/a-degree-of-concern-why-global-temperatures-matter/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.
“Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named top plastic polluters for ….” 7 Dec. 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/07/coca-cola-pepsi-and-nestle-named-top-plastic-polluters-for-third-year-in-a-row. Accessed 13 Dec. 2020.
“People still want plastic bottles, says Coca-Cola – BBC News.” 21 Jan. 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51197463. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.
“Rethinking plastic packaging – towards a circular … – Unilever.” https://www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/reducing-environmental-impact/waste-and-packaging/rethinking-plastic-packaging/. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“Mondelēz International Supports Global Harmonization on ….” 4 Nov. 2020, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/11/04/2120162/0/en/Mondel%C4%93z-International-Supports-Global-Harmonization-on-Plastics-Recycling-Calls-for-Collaborative-Action-on-Flexible-Films.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“extended producer responsibility | Definition … – Britannica.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/extended-producer-responsibility. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“Global carbon emissions down by record 7% in 2020 – DW.” 11 Dec. 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/global-carbon-emissions-down-by-record-7-in-2020/a-55900887. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“Carbon dioxide levels hit new record; COVID impact ‘a tiny ….” 23 Nov. 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1078322. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“2020 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Event Is Most … – EcoWatch.” 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.ecowatch.com/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-2645655957.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“Great Barrier Reef suffers third mass bleaching event in five ….” 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/australia/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-intl-hnk/index.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“Last decade was Earth’s hottest on record as climate crisis ….” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/12/hottest-decade-climate-crisis-2019. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“Scientists Predict Scorching Temperatures to Last Through ….” 18 Jun. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/climate/summer-weather-prediction.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.
“What started California’s largest wildfires of 2020?.” 1 Oct. 2020, https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2020/10/01/california-wildfires-2020-causes-august-complex-fire-lightning/5881552002/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“Gender-Reveal Party Is Blamed in California Wildfire – The ….” 18 Sept. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/us/gender-reveal-party-wildfire.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“Fires In California Burn On As Firefighters Risk COVID To ….” 21 Aug. 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/08/21/904552759/wildfires-rage-on-in-california-as-fire-crews-and-evacuees-grapple-with-covid-ri. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“Interstate 5 Fire – Cal Fire – CA.gov.” 3 May. 2020, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/5/3/interstate-5-fire/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“National Large Incident Year-to-Date Report – GACC-NIFC.” 20 Aug. 2020, https://gacc.nifc.gov/sacc/predictive/intelligence/NationalLargeIncidentYTDReport.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“The science of how climate change impacts fires in the West.” 17 Sept. 2020, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/09/climate-change-increases-risk-fires-western-us/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“Welcome to Incident – Cal Fire – CA.gov.” https://www.fire.ca.gov/incident/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“Air Pollution in China – Environment – Ecology.” http://www.environment.gen.tr/pollution/766-air-pollution-in-china.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“Top 5 most polluting countries – Active Sustainability.” https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/top-5-most-polluting-countries/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“Want govt to build 1,600 km green wall along Aravalli, says ….” 24 Dec. 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/want-govt-to-build-1600-km-green-wall-along-aravalli-says-activist-vijaypal-baghel-6182069/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“Corrosion and pollution in Russia – Corrosion Doctors.” https://corrosion-doctors.org/AtmCorros/mapRussia.htm. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.
“How Japan is Tackling Pollution – AZoCleantech.com.” 19 Aug. 2019, https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=918. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.