Updated: Feb 1
It is currently December, a time of year that is meant to be chilly with snow on the ground - I'm living in New York, a place that would normally be dusted in snow at this time of year. Instead of having snow, we are having warmer and warmer days. I barely need to wear layers to go outside. I hear conversations daily about how there should be snow or it should be colder than it is and almost always does the conversation end with the conclusion that it must be climate change.
Climate change has been a controversial topic since it was first introduced for discussion in the 1960's as global warming. Many people, including President Trump, refuse to look at the facts and insist the earth is just going through its normal cycle. Yes, it is true that every 100,000 years or so there is a major cold front that becomes an 'ice age', and every 10-11 years more sunspots form on our sun, making it more potent. What is not being considered, though, is the fact that in the past there was little to no influence by man-made machines.
We are currently contributing such an amount of CO2 that the concentration in the air is the highest it has been in over 3 million years, at 408 parts per million. The CO2 influences global temperatures, rising the average each year. In fact, in the last 10 years there have been multiple records made with extreme heat waves. 2016 has been recorded as the warmest year in history, being 1.78 degrees warmer than the last warmest year, which occurred in the 20th century. Additionally, seventeen out of the eighteen warmest years have happened since 2000.
Greenhouse gas emissions, both a natural and man-made effect, are at an all time high. With humans desperate for fuel and profitable goods, they are cutting down mass amounts of trees and destroying countless lands. Deforestation is now contributing 11% of all greenhouse gas emissions alone.
Since the start of the industrial revolution the acidity of the oceans have increased by 30% and the amount of CO2 absorbed in the oceans is currently increasing by two billion tons each year. As the oceans take in more toxins and pollutants, the temperatures rise. The top 700 meters of the oceans have warmed by more than .4 degrees in the last 50 years. This may not seem like much, but it is having catastrophic effects on the living conditions of countless marine species. Also, in the last century the sea levels have risen by eight inches due to melting ice.
Polar ice sheets are shrinking at a detrimental rate, with over 400 billion tons of ice melting since 1993. The effect this has on the environment for polar bears and penguins is disastrous. Many polar bears are starving and malnourished; they are sadly on their way to being on the endangered list as their population is steadily decreasing.
It may seem as though these climate changes are only affecting wildlife, but it is quite the opposite. Climate change is bringing about extreme weather conditions, including droughts, floods, wildfires, heat waves, and cold fronts. These events are affecting more than 11% of the world's population, which is more than 800 million people. Homes and resources are being burned; environments meant for the cold are warming up and changing living conditions; families are being washed away in floods. Each year the repercussions of climate change on people worsens and intensifies. If people continue to ignore climate change and do not make lifestyle changes then the effects on the earth will become irreversible.
Luckily, there is still time to save what we have left of our planet. The world leaders that recognize climate change as an issue are lessening their use of fossil fuels, switching to renewable energy sources, and signing agreements to further change and progress. 195 nations signed the 2015 Paris agreement to protect nature. Along with governmental leaders, businesses in the private sector are also working to make a change. 100 businesses have become 100% reliant on renewable energy sources after joining the RE100. Many companies are becoming 'net positive', which reduces their carbon footprint; the companies involved (including Ikea) have reduced their carbon impact by up to 60%.
Beyond nations and wealthy organizations, everyday people can make a change too.
Some ways in which everyone can help:
1 - Rely on public transportation instead of using a car - or purchase a hybrid or electric car.
2 - Eat LESS meat.
3 - Shorten your shower time and stop buying water in plastic bottles.
4 - Switch your light bulbs to LED lights.
5 - Make a compost.
6 - Use reusable shopping bags.
7 - Plant a tree.
8 - Buy fewer products encased in plastic.
9 - Shop second hand.
10 - RECYCLE.
None of these changes are difficult to make and they all have a positive impact on the planet. But, before real change can happen, we must first recognize that climate change is real and is an issue.
For more information on climate change, check out these articles from where I obtained my information: