Written by Yashvardhan Sharma
“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth... these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security, and women's empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”
- Ban-Ki-Moon, Former United Nations Secretary-General
We are at a point of time when everyone’s talking about a phenomenon known as climate change- what it exactly is, how does it affect you and what you can do about it is what I’ll be talking about here.
What is Climate Change and how does it affect you?
In the simplest of the terms, climate change can be defined as any significant long-term change in the expected patterns of average weather of a region (or the whole Earth) over a significant period of time. One thing that you need to know is that it’s definitely real, it’s neither a hoax nor is it because your grandparents are growing old.
The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century or the Industrial Revolution. In between 1993 and 2016, Antarctica and Greenland lost an average of 127 billion tons and 286 billion tons of ice due to the rising temperatures, respectively. This has led to a rapid decline in sea ice and also resulted in a drastic increase in the sea level along with great geographical changes.
The extreme weather in different regions around the globe, hurricanes, droughts, floods, depletion of glaciers, water pollution, and other such calamities are a few consequences of global warming and climate change. Human activities such as deforestation, mining, pollution, land use changes, use of chemical fertilizers and burning of fossil fuels contribute to these changes increasing at a disturbingly high rate.
If you know a farmer, he’s currently having the worst times of his life right now due to climate change as he’s currently facing the worst droughts or floods in history which have likely destroyed his produce. If you know a friend who’s been sick quite a lot recently. It’s probably because of the progressively rising pollution levels in the air right now causing breathing issues to millions. If your country is undergoing summers right now, you may have seen your city having a record-breaking high temperature, not ignoring the record low temperatures in case of winters. All these things and so many more, contribute to climate change affecting you in one way or another.
Every day, we are seeing new and undeniable events which provide us evidence of accelerated climate change which is here right now and we have to deal with it immediately with extreme care. We cannot pretend to live in a utopian place anymore wherein climate change is either non-existent or is not affecting us directly. It is high time that we break out of this illusion and take action.
What can you do about it?
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to keep global warming below 2 °C, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) must be halved by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels).
The Governments need to take immediate, extreme and effective measures right now and we as citizens of our respective countries must urge them to do the same. Carbon emissions must be taxed, eliminate government subsidies on oil, coal and gas companies and promote green, renewable energy. Governments must take example from India, whose ‘Solar Mission’ sets a target to install 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity by 2020, and Australia that has invested $12.9 billion to secure Australia's water supply in 'Water for the Future’.
However, what can one do on an individual level?
As Leonardo DiCaprio, a UN Messenger of Peace stated at the opening of Climate Summit 2014 that renewable energy is not only achievable but a good economic policy, for the economy itself will die if our ecosystems collapse.
Personally, you can take certain steps to do your part in your individual capacity to prevent climate change. Here’s a list of the things of a few things you can do:
1. Use water wisely
● Do not waste water, allocate your water use efficiency and if possible, take steps to conserve
2. Stop using plastic
● When you are out shopping, carry a cloth bag with you instead of purchasing a polythene bag
from the store which cannot be recycled in the future.
● Buying less not only cuts down on plastic packaging that is clogging our oceans, but it also reduces your carbon footprint and puts fewer greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere.
3. Move your air-conditioning thermostat up two degrees
● You could save about 900kg of carbon dioxide a year with this simple adjustment.
● Set the thermostat of the room at 25 Degrees for the maximum comfort and the least social cost.
4. Plant more trees
● You can plant trees and plants to make up for the pollution that you currently cause.
● It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge banyan tree in backyard but small plants and trees, regardless of the size help the environment a little.’
● It’s only fair to give back to the environment after all the years that we’ve damaged it.
5. Use renewable energy
● Use a solar water heater instead of an electric geyser. A 100-liter solar water heater can save around 1500 units of electricity every year.
● For electricity, get solar panels to generate electricity. These might seem expensive, but would absolutely be better for you, by saving the cost of electricity bills in the long run and the environment.
6. Reduce your use of electronic devices
● By doing so, you would be saving the electricity and hence the natural resources used in producing it.
● Limiting your electronic use can be a small, yet efficient step in saving the planet.
7. Reuse and recycle everything
8. Reduce your consumption of meat.
● Livestock such as cows release methane, a greenhouse gas, and require large amounts of land and feed.
● Limiting your intake of meat to a few days of the week and eating vegetables for a couple of days in the week can greatly reduce the impact on the environment
9. Talk to your friends and urge them to do the same!
● Talk to your friends about climate change and share information about the same on how you can help reduce it. Talking about it is the first step to helping the planet.