Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are drying, and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It has become clear that humans have caused most of the past century's warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than at any time in the last 800,000 years.
We often call the result of global warming, but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth's climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. But it’s more of a WARNING because it’s threatening our planet and this is a warning to us.
While many people think of global warming and climate change as synonyms, Global Warming focuses on the rising average temperature of the planet, while Climate Change usually refers to the shifts in things like precipitation, wind patterns, and temperatures over a given period. Measured changes in climate could last a few years, decades, or even millions of years.
Causes of Climate Change
Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Below are a few of the causes:
- Greenhouse Gases (GHG)
As the planet gets hit with the sun’s rays, some of the energy is absorbed, and the rest of that energy and heat gets reflected into space.
Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap the reflected energy, redirecting it back down to the earth and eventually contributing to global warming.
Various gases play this role, including:
- Water vapor
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Nitrous oxide
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
While some of these GHG, such as water vapor, are naturally occurring, others, such as CFCs, are synthetic. CO2 is released into the atmosphere from both natural and human-made causes and is one of the leading contributors to climate change. CO2 has been increasing at an alarming rate and has the potential to stay in the earth’s atmosphere for thousands of years unless it gets absorbed by the ocean, land, trees, and other sources. Some studies predict that plants and soil will be able to absorb less CO2 as the earth continues to warm; possibly accelerating climate change even further.
- Fossil Fuel Burning
The most significant contributor to climate change is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. Of these factors, transportation in the form of cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes emits the largest percentage of CO2; speeding up global warming and remaining a significant cause of climate change.
Deforestation and climate change often go hand in hand. Not only does climate change increase deforestation by way of wildfires and other extreme weather, but deforestation is also a major contributor to global warming.
According to the Earth Day Network, deforestation is the second leading contributor to global greenhouse gasses. Many people and organizations fighting against climate change point to reducing deforestation as one of, if not the most, important issues that must be addressed to slow or prevent climate change.
Livestock in the form of cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry play a significant role in climate change. According to one study, “Livestock and Climate Change,” livestock around the world is responsible for 51% of annual global GHG emissions.
The most important greenhouse gases from livestock are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane, mainly produced by enteric fermentation and manure storage, is a gas that has an effect on global warming 28 times higher than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide, arising from manure storage and the use of organic/inorganic fertilizers, is a molecule with a global warming potential 265 times higher than carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide equivalent is a standard unit used to account for the global warming potential.
Overconsumption is responsible for the overexploitation of natural resources and emissions from international freight transport, which both contribute to GHG emissions.
- Intensive Farming
From the transportation and livestock that it takes to support agricultural efforts around the world, intensive farming is responsible for a significant portion of the world’s GHG emissions. As productivity increases, less carbon is being emitted to produce more food.
- Solar Activity
While the sun does go through natural cycles, increasing and decreasing the amount of energy that it emits to the earth, it is unlikely that solar activity is a major contributor to global warming or climate change.
Effects of Climate Change
- Extreme Weather
Changes to weather are perhaps the most noticeable and immediate effect of climate change. Extreme weather events will continue to increase in frequency and intensity as climate change continues to happen. Extreme weather influenced by climate change includes:
- Stronger storms & hurricanes
- More flooding
- Heavier droughts
- Negative Impact on Biodiversity
Climate change is already changing seasonal weather patterns and disrupting food distribution for plants and animals throughout the world, potentially causing mass extinction events. The scarcity of resources and climate change are changing life habits and migratory cycles of animals. According to the IPCC, a 1.5°C (2.7°F) average rise might put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction. If the planet warms by more than 2°C, most ecosystems will struggle.
- Water & Food Resources
Severe weather and increased temperatures will continue to limit crop productivity and increase the demand for water. With food demand expected to increase by nearly 70% by 2050, the problem will likely only get worse.
- Rising Sea Levels
Increasing ocean temperatures and melting ice sheets have steadily contributed to the rise of sea levels on a global scale. At current rates, sea levels to rise by at least 8 inches by 2100, potentially causing increased flooding and decrease in ocean and wetland habitats.
- Shrinking Ice Sheets
While contributing to rising sea levels, shrinking ice sheets present their own set of unique problems, including increased global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change has driven summer melt of the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica to increase by nearly 30% since 1979.
- Ocean Acidification
The ocean is one of the main ways in which CO2 gets absorbed. While at first glance that may sound like a net positive, the increasingly human-caused CO2 is pushing the world’s oceans to their limits and causing increased acidity. As pH levels in the ocean decrease, shellfish have difficulty reproducing, and much of the oceans’ food cycle becomes disrupted.
Depending on age, location, and economic status, climate change is already affecting the health of many and has the potential to impact millions more. Climate change-related health risks may include:
- Heat-related illness
- Injuries and fatalities from severe weather
- Asthma & cardiovascular disease from air pollution
- Respiratory problems from increased allergies
- Diseases from poor water quality
Some solutions to reduce Climate Change
While the effects of climate change can seem bleak, there is still hope. By taking immediate action to curb climate change, we may never see the worst consequences. Likewise, as the world adopts cleaner, more sustainable energy solutions. Below are some practical ways you can battle climate change, including:
- Stop or reduce the usage of fossil fuels
- Purchase biodegradable and compostable products e.g. Green Ocean Group products
- Make your home energy efficient
- Move closer to work
- Stop cutting down trees
- Buy carbon offsets
- Adopt a plant-based diet
- Invest in energy-efficient buildings and improved cement-making processes
- Reduce food waste
Green Ocean Group´s Help!
In Green Ocean Group we will be distributing water-soluble and compostable products, which will replace single-use plastic bags and plastic packaging plastic film, not only in Australia but all over the world. This will enable to reduce a % of plastic pollution, reduce deforestation and water/energy consumption in the recycling and collecting process.
So, simply by applying the above-mentioned solutions, we can help save our planet from the devastating effects of climate change and lead towards a sustainable way of life.
So, do let us know what are your efforts to reduce global warming?