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Climate Change: Everything You Need to Know


Climate change is the long-term alteration in average weather conditions over a large area. It is caused by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, which trap heat from the sun and cause the Earth’s temperature to increase. Climate change has far-reaching effects on the environment and society, including rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and changes to ecosystems. It has the potential to cause large-scale displacement of people and species, as well as food and water insecurity. To mitigate the effects of climate change, governments, businesses, and individuals must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement policies and technologies that reduce their impact.

What Is Climate Change? Is It Different From Global Warming?

In reality, climate change is not a recent occurrence. Although researchers have been looking into the relationship between human activity and climate change since the 1800s, it wasn’t until the 1950s that they discovered evidence of one. (how we can combat climate change)

Since then, greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases) have been slowly rising in the atmosphere, with a rapid increase in the late 1980s when the summer of 1988 broke all previous records for temperature. Since then, numerous records have been broken. Global warming and climate change are not the same thing, though. (Climate Change: Everything You Need to Know)

The term “global warming” was first used in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until a few decades later when more people began to notice a warmer environment that it became a popular buzzword. However, climate change goes beyond simply a rise in temperature. Additionally, trapped gases have an impact on weather patterns, biodiversity, animal habitats, and sea level rise. Texas’ damaging winter storms in February 2021 serve as an illustration of how the climate is changing beyond simple warming.

Why Is Climate Change Important? Why Does It Matter?

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Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has advocated for colonizing Mars, but for the foreseeable future, Earth will remain our home. The more negatively human activity effects the climate, the less habitable it will become. Although monitoring of climate change didn’t begin until the late 1800s, it is believed that Earth has already warmed by around one degree Celsius, or two degrees Fahrenheit, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 1750s. Even though that amount of warming might not seem like much, it has already led to more frequent and severe wildfires, hurricanes, floods, droughts, and winter storms, to name a few. (how we can combat climate change)

Environmental Impacts:

Another effect of climate change that is affecting coral reefs and rainforests and hastening the extinction of species is biodiversity loss. Consider rainforests, which serve as organic carbon sinks by soaking up atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, fewer trees imply that rainforests are turning into carbon sources, spewing more carbon than they are absorbing, due to widespread deforestation that is taking place everywhere from Borneo to Brazil’s Amazon. While this is happening, coral reefs are perishing because bleaching events brought on by warming ocean temperatures drive corals to reject algae, their primary food and source of life. Less coral reefs, trees, and other ecosystems also mean fewer species. According to a 2019 UN report, which is known as the sixth mass extinction, up to a million plant and animal species may go extinct in the next few decades.

Human Impact:

In daily life, it can be simple to ignore or even fail to see how climate change is at play. A further romaine lettuce recall brought on by E. coli was noticed, right? According to research, as the climate changes, E. Coli bacteria are becoming more prevalent in our food supplies. You can no longer find your preferred brand of coffee beans. the fact that the cost has doubled? That is also being impacted by climate change. Along with contaminating tap water, climate change is also making seasonal allergies and air quality worse.Not to mention, a number of early studies have established a link between climate change and the deadly COVID-19 epidemic, which continues to spread throughout much of the world. If the underlying causes, like deforestation, are not addressed, pandemics will probably occur more frequently in the future.

Speaking of bigger problems, there is already more frequent worldwide water scarcity. Increasing heat and less rainfall are causing water shortages in the Caribbean; major wildfires in Australia may cause dams there to dry out by 2022; and Cape Town, South Africa, has already experienced water problems.

As mentioned earlier, it’s one thing to experience short-term inconveniences like higher coffee bean prices or a temporary shortage of romaine lettuce, but reports warn that climate change will continue to jeopardize food security worldwide and even cause a global food crisis if temperatures rise by more than two degrees Celsius. (how we can combat climate change)

Numerous of these elements are already causing a significant amount of individuals to migrate to various parts of the world in pursuit of more favorable living conditions.

Future generations will have to deal with worst-case scenario projections by the end of the 21st century, including coastal cities going under water, like Miami; lethal heat levels from South Asia to Central Africa; and more frequent extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, droughts, floods, blizzards, and more. (how we can combat climate change)

What’s Happening and Why?

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Up until the industrial age and the advent of greenhouse gases, the Earth’s temperature had mainly been steady. The atmosphere has been pushed to retain heat as a result of these gases, as shown by the increase in global temperatures. Warmer temperatures on the planet cause glaciers to melt more quickly, sea levels to rise, more severe flooding, more catastrophic droughts, and other extreme weather phenomena. (how we can combat climate change)

The Greenhouse Effect:

Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, investigated the relationship between atmospheric carbon concentration and the planet’s capacity to warm or cool. Although his preliminary calculations suggested extreme warming as carbon concentration increased, scientists didn’t begin to seriously consider human-induced climate change until the late 20th century.

However, evidence of human-caused climate change dates back to the 1850s, and in more recent years, scientists have used satellites to study rising greenhouse gas concentrations and their impact on the climate. Among the effects of greenhouse gas heating the earth are occurrences like warmer oceans, ocean acidification, melting ice sheets, less snowfall, and extreme weather, according to climate researchers.

The greenhouse effect, or the generation of greenhouse gases, is influenced by a variety of causes. Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, to power everything from cars to daily energy demands, is one of the main culprits (electricity, heat). Fossil fuels accounted for 78% of all greenhouse gas emissions between 1970 and 2011.

Big agriculture also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through the production of beef, which increased by 10% in 2019. This is a result of land clearing for farming, grazing, and feed production as well as methane created by the cows themselves. Americans devoured 27.3 billion pounds of beef in the U.S. alone in 2019.

Then there is the widespread deforestation that is taking place from Borneo to the Amazon. Two-thirds of the world’s rainforests have already been lost or degraded, according to a Rainforest Foundation Norway research from 2021. Under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation in Brazil reached a 12-year high in 2020. According to current reports, the Amazon rainforest will disappear by 2064. As a result of the trees’ ability to absorb and remove carbon from the atmosphere, rainforests are significant carbon sinks. The remaining trees will start to release more greenhouse gases than they are receiving when rainforests begin to collapse. (how we can combat climate change)

Meanwhile, a recent study found that abandoned oil and gas wells leak more methane than previously thought, accounting for up to 20% of yearly methane emissions in the United States.

The cement business is not the least. Around 8% of carbon dioxide emissions are attributed to cement, which is widely used in the global construction industry.

Natural Climate Change:

Of course, there have also been instances of natural climate change throughout history, from the Ice Ages brought on by solar radiation to the asteroid strike that dramatically increased global temperatures and wiped out the dinosaurs and many other species in the process. Volcano eruptions, ocean currents, and orbital movements are additional sources of natural climate change impacts; however, these sources typically have less significant and immediate environmental effects.

How We Can Combat Climate Change

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Even while the most recent research and statistics frequently make one doubt society’s ability to avert the worst-case climate catastrophes, there is still time for action.

As a Society:

The Paris Agreement, an international climate change treaty, was signed in 2015 at COP 21 in Paris by 197 nations, who agreed to keep global warming this century to two degrees Celsius, and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. It is estimated that the planet has warmed by one degree Celsius since 1750. According to studies, limiting global warming to two degrees will help avoid the worst possible outcomes. Participating parties must immediately reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a significant amount in order to meet this target. But there have already been a lot of failures.

Since then, a number of events have occurred, including former U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in 2020 and the failure of major polluters like China to undertake serious climate change measures. Even if the initial goals are achieved, many treaty signatories have been hesitant to implement reforms, leaving the globe on course to reach 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of the twenty-first century. Notably, US President Joe Biden re-joined the Paris Agreement in 2021 and vowed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. (how we can combat climate change)

The Montreal Protocol was a 1987 international agreement to gradually phase out substances that deplete the ozone layer, like chlorofluorocarbons, which were frequently used in air conditioning, refrigeration, and aerosols. Recent research indicates that the ozone is recovering in some areas, demonstrating the effectiveness of a concerted effort to address climate change challenges.

Carbon offset programs enable businesses and people to make smaller-scale investments in environmental projects that counteract the carbon emissions resulting from their daily activities. For instance, significant businesses (and carbon emitters) Shell and United Airlines have committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions, in part through taking part in carbon offset programs that remove carbon from the environment. The issue is that these businesses continue to emit significant amounts of fossil fuels. (how we can combat climate change)

While carbon offset purchases by individuals may have a little influence, it is the responsibility of carbon-emitting businesses to identify and adopt better energy sources. This translates into automakers creating electric automobiles rather than gasoline-powered ones or airlines looking for other fuel sources. Major corporations must also rely more on solar and wind energy for their energy requirements.

In Our Own Lives:

Even though businesses are responsible for carrying out the bulk of the work involved in reducing carbon emissions, individuals can still have an impact. You can fight climate change by being vegan, using public transit, moving to an electric automobile, and practicing more responsible consumption.

Veganism

According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, growing and killing livestock contributes to around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and eating meat necessitates clearing land for crops and animals. In contrast, adopting a plant-based diet might cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70%, particularly if you choose locally produced goods. (how we can combat climate change)

Public Transportation

Given that gas-powered automobiles are responsible for 95% of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, using public transit like trains, subways, buses, trams, and ferries is another simple option to reduce your carbon footprint.

Electric Vehicles

As more manufacturers enter the market, the cost of electric cars and trucks has decreased, and these vehicles emit significantly fewer pollution than their gas-powered counterparts. Another excellent option for reducing individual emission emissions is to drive a hybrid car.

Conscious Consumption

Another strategy to keep your carbon footprint low is to buy locally produced goods and food. This is because they don’t need to be shipped or driven large distances. Another alternative, particularly when it comes to clothing, is to support local businesses who are dedicated to sustainability. Fast fashion has gained popularity because of its low price, however it frequently harms the environment and sometimes uses unethical labor practices in other countries. Last but not least, plastic permeates every aspect of the consumer market, but with a little investigation, you can find non-plastic alternatives, from reusable produce bags to infant bottles. (how we can combat climate change)

Climate Activism

Those who want to get even more involved might join neighborhood climate action groups. Popular organizations include, for example, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Sunrise Movement, and Fridays for Future. Additional ways to speak out include voting, volunteering, calling your local legislators, and taking part in climate marches.

Takeaway

It has taken generations for the climate to reach a tipping point, and there are only a few decades left to avert the worst-case scenarios. However, there is still potential for limiting global warming as long as people, businesses, and countries make an immediate, coordinated effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A quick, coordinated response can make all the difference, as the world already learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior editor at EcoWatch is Meredith Rosenberg. She received her master’s degree from Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in New York City and her bachelor’s degree from Temple University in Philadelphia.

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