3 Degrees – the Difference Between Life and Death

Everyone’s heard that we’re treading on very thin ice (excuse the pun) when it comes to the rising temperature in the earth’s atmosphere. Rising temperatures means rising sea levels as our ice caps gradually start to melt. But what does this mean for our cities, and ultimately, life as we know it?


While many of us are well aware of the dangers of climate change, it is sometimes hard to actually visualise the impact it will have on our lives. Talk of ice caps sounds far removed, and it feels like any change that will happen will be so far in the future that it will barely impact our own lives at all. But this isn’t true.


During the Paris Agreement of 2015, major world leaders met to agree to make a conscientious effort to restrict temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees. However, according to the UN Environment Programme, the momentum for change is currently too slow, which will mean that a rise beyond the 2-degree goal will be inevitable at this rate by the end of the century.


The UN’s environment chief, Erik Solheim, reportedly told The Guardian that ‘We still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future’.


This will mean that for at least 275 million people who live in cities, their lives would be at risk, especially those living in Asian coastal cities such as Shanghai, Shenzen, Bangkok and Tokyo.

Japan’s second biggest city, Osaka, is projected to lose its business and entertainments districts of Umeda and Namba unless global emissions are forced down or flood defences are built up.

Miami will be almost entirely under sea level if temperatures continue to rise at this pace. In Egypt, even a 0.5m sea-level rise is predicted to submerge beaches in Alexandria and displace 8 million people on the Nile Delta unless protective measures are taken, according to the IPCC. But local activists say the authorities see it as a distant problem. 

The impacts will also be felt on the economy and food production. Among the most vulnerable areas in the UK is Lincolnshire, where swaths of agricultural land are likely to be lost to the sea.

The message is clear – unless we start acting now and investing serious time, energy and resources into combatting this problem, our cities and livelihoods will undergo catastrophic and irreversible destruction. I think that the key underlying problem is that whilst people are aware of the issues, they are unaware of how immanent and real the threats actually are. It is not enough to simply be concerned for the environment. We need to make a conscientious effort to actively counteract and prevent further increase of temperature if we want to continue to be able to survive.


photography credit: Jamie Murphy

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