How Climate Change Has Changed My Lens: A Photographer’s Journey

I have always loved photography. Ever since I was a kid, I would borrow my dad’s camera and take pictures of everything I saw. I was fascinated by the beauty and diversity of the world, and I wanted to capture it in my images. I dreamed of becoming a professional photographer and traveling the world, seeing new places and cultures, and documenting them with my lens.

I was lucky enough to make my dream come true. For the past 20 years, I have been working as a freelance photographer for various magazines and websites, covering topics such as wildlife, nature, culture, and adventure. I have visited over 50 countries, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the Amazon to the Sahara, from the Himalayas to the Alps.

I have seen some of the most amazing sights and met some of the most wonderful people. I have also witnessed some of the most devastating impacts of climate change on the planet and its inhabitants.

Climate change is not a distant threat. It is happening here and now, and it is affecting everything and everyone. As a photographer, I have seen it with my own eyes, and I have tried to show it with my own images. Here are some of the examples of how climate change has changed my lens.

Melting ice and rising seas

One of the most visible effects of climate change is the melting of ice and snow in the polar regions and high altitudes. I have been to the Arctic and the Antarctic several times, and I have seen how the ice sheets and glaciers are shrinking and cracking, how the sea ice is thinning and disappearing, and how the wildlife is struggling to adapt and survive. I have also seen how the rising sea levels are threatening the coastal communities and islands around the world, eroding the beaches, flooding the lands, and displacing the people.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the global average sea level rose by about 15 cm in the 20th century, and it is projected to rise by another 30 to 122 cm by the end of the 21st century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the Arctic sea ice extent has decreased by about 13% per decade since 1979, and that the Antarctic ice sheet has lost about 155 billion tonnes of ice per year since 2003. These changes have profound implications for the global climate system, the water cycle, the biodiversity, and the human livelihoods.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Another effect of climate change is the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and natural disasters, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, storms, wildfires, and landslides. I have been to many places where these events have occurred, and I have seen how they have caused immense damage and suffering to the environment and the people. I have also seen how they have exacerbated the existing problems of poverty, hunger, disease, and conflict.

According to the World Health Organization, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone. The World Bank estimates that climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction reports that between 2000 and 2019, there were more than 7 300 major disaster events worldwide, affecting more than 4 billion people and causing more than 1.2 trillion US dollars of economic losses. These numbers are likely to increase as the climate continues to change.

Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services

A third effect of climate change is the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, which are the benefits that nature provides to humans, such as food, water, medicine, pollination, recreation, and cultural values. I have been to many places where the natural habitats and species are disappearing or declining, due to the changing temperatures, precipitation, seasons, and disturbances. I have also seen how this affects the human well-being and security, especially for the indigenous and local communities who depend on nature for their livelihoods and identities.

According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, climate change is one of the main drivers of the global biodiversity crisis, which threatens the extinction of more than one million species and the degradation of more than 75% of the land and 66% of the ocean. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the global population of vertebrate animals has declined by 68% since 1970, and that the global ecological footprint has exceeded the Earth’s biocapacity by 60%. These trends have serious consequences for the human health, economy, and society.

What can we do?

As a photographer, I feel a responsibility to share my stories and images with the world, to raise awareness and inspire action on climate change. I believe that photography can be a powerful tool for communication and education, as it can show the reality and the urgency of the situation, as well as the solutions and the hope. I also believe that photography can be a form of activism and advocacy, as it can influence the public opinion and the policy making, and support the movements and the campaigns that are fighting for climate justice.

But photography alone is not enough. We all need to do our part to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changing climate. We need to change our lifestyles and consumption patterns, to use less energy and resources, to choose renewable and clean sources of power, to eat less meat and more plant-based foods, to travel less by plane and more by train, bike, or foot, to reuse, recycle, and compost our waste, to protect and restore our forests and wetlands, to support and join the local and global initiatives that are working for climate action.

We also need to demand more from our governments and corporations, to hold them accountable and responsible for their actions and inactions, to urge them to implement and enforce the policies and regulations that are needed to limit the global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as agreed in the Paris Agreement. We need to vote for the leaders and the parties that are committed to the climate cause, to participate in the public consultations and the demonstrations, to sign the petitions and the letters, to join the lawsuits and the boycotts.

We are running out of time. The climate crisis is the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity of our generation. We have the knowledge and the technology to solve it. We have the moral and the legal duty to act on it. We have the power and the potential to make a difference. We are the last generation that can stop the climate change, and the first generation that can live in harmony with nature. Let us use our lens, our voice, and our action to make it happen.

With Love and Hope, Todd Whitman

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