I once read it somewhere that the climate change story is a crime story. To give it context, our planet earth is the crime scene; all life including plants, animals, and humans are the victims; and the culprits are fellow humans.
In the space of a week, the media went agog with devastating news reports that showed just how much the earth is close to a tipping point.
Floods in Germany and Belgium left more than 150 dead; Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it absorbs; and wildfires have gutted some parts of the U.S– Oregon, California, and Washington.
In light of this background, let’s answer four key questions about climate change.
What is climate change?
Climate change refers to significant changes in the earth’s temperature, precipitation, wind patterns, and other measures of climate that are mostly caused by human activities.
Naturally, the earth goes through hot and cool phases, however, temperatures are now rising faster than at any other time in human history.
What are the causes of climate change?
The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions humans generate are the major cause of the earth’s rapidly changing climate.
Industrialization, largely driven by technological advancement, has brought social and economic prosperity across the globe, we cannot deny that it is a huge contributor to environmental pollution. How so?
Consider this: human activities continue to increase carbon dioxide emissions. For example, the energy and manufacturing industries run on coal, oil, and gas to generate electricity, run cars, and other infrastructure.
Even as greenhouse gases play an important part in keeping the planet warm enough to sustain life, it is alarming to know that the amount of these gases in our atmosphere has drastically increased in recent decades.
Another major cause of climate change is deforestation. Living trees absorb and store carbon dioxide; as such, when such trees are felled, more carbon is released into the air.
A report estimated that logging, clear-cutting, fires, and other forms of forest degradation contribute up to 20 percent of global carbon emissions.
Other human activities that are causative factors include intensive agriculture and road construction which can change the reflectivity of the earth’s surface, leading to local warming or cooling as well.
What are the implications?
Dirty air. Scientists have been aware of the deadly impacts of fossil fuel-induced pollution for years. Research has shown that carbon emission from burning fossil fuels was responsible for about 8.7 million deaths globally in 2018.
The same study has revealed that air pollution from fossil fuels is an invisible killer responsible for nearly one in every five deaths globally.
Weather crisis. If you remember the extreme weather events that were mentioned at the outset, one of the most severe implications of climate change is the weather crisis.
When the earth’s atmosphere heats up, it collects, retains, and drops more water. This causes a change in weather patterns, making wet areas flood and dry areas drier.
What we see play out are disasters such as floods, storms, heatwaves, and droughts that bring costly consequences in their wake- contamination of water, wildfires, and loss of lives among other catastrophes.
Health risk. According to the World Health Organization, climate change will cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths every year between 2030 and 2050. With the rise in global temperatures, the number of deaths and illnesses keeps growing.
From fire and flood-related injuries, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and kidney disease, to respiratory complications resulting from air pollution, climate change is responsible for the death of millions.
Rising sea level. According to National Geographic, rising sea level is caused by thermal expansion, melting glaciers, and loss of Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets all stemming from a larger cause, global climate change.
As its ice sheets melt into the seas, our oceans are predicted to rise one to four feet higher by 2100, threatening coastal ecosystems and low-plain areas. It’s been projected that Island nations will be the most vulnerable.
However, a recent study reports that large strips of apparel-producing areas in Asia will be underwater by 2030 (in nine years’ time), threatening to submerge thousands of suppliers if they do not move to higher ground.
Endangered ecosystem. Due to the effects of climate change species and wildlife are forced to adapt to the changes in their natural habitats. If they’re unable to adjust to their new circumstances, many migrate in search of favorable locations.
This shift has an effect on the ecosystem as a whole, especially the intricate webs of life that depend on the migrating species.
No wonder a 2015 study showed that sea mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and other species are disappearing 114 times faster than is normal. This occurrence is not unconnected to climate change.
Also, when it comes to pollution, fish, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals face a high risk of poisoning, entanglement, and/or death from plastic debris and other pollutants.
What can we do about it?
Climate change is our new reality. To an extent, whether consciously or otherwise, we have all contributed to what’s happening to our planet.
Granted some have inflicted more harm on the earth than others. In response, governments across the world are setting up initiatives, climate-focused organizations are carrying out more research and relief programs, international and local climate change advocates are tooting their horns louder than ever.
Also, concerned and eco-friendly individuals are becoming more intentional about the way they live, work, and carry out day-to-day activities. Consider what you can also do to join the effort.
- Be more environmentally conscious and train your kids
- Say no to non-reusable materials
- Embrace renewable energy
- Reduce food waste
- Reduce your carbon footprint
- Save energy whenever you can
- Make informed decisions and choices
- Promote innovation for sustainable energy solutions