IPCC: WE CAN ACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE BUT TIME IS RUNNING OUT
Climate change is a long-term alteration of weather, and it leads to unpredictable weather patterns. It is a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. The climate system of Earth is recording an increasing temperature, in which more than 95%of scientists are certain that greenhouse gases are the main contributor.
Vital signs of the planet. Source: NASA.
All lives will end if climate change is not addressed as the highly concentrated greenhouse gases are oxidising, reacting and trapping more heat within the Earth’satmosphere. Extinction level climate change is defined as temperatures exceeding 5-6oCfrom pre-industrial levels. Climate change may reach an irreversible stage where all forms of life will face more catastrophic and unpredictable disasters. Dire bushfires, flash floods, heavy storms, the sinking of cities are already being recorded, proving the existence of a climate crisis. More lives will be killed, food insecurity will bloom, agricultural failure will occur everywhere, extinctions across the globe will be recorded at a higher pace and more. By 2050, one-fourth of all species are predicted to go extinct due to climate change. Worse, with the predicted population of 10 billion people by2050, an estimation of 60% more food will be needed to cater for the population. Currently,food-related emissions are recorded to emit one-third of total greenhouse gases globally, which is more than the total gases emitted by all transportations combined worldwide. Questioning the fundamentals of sustainability, are we prepared to provide the needs of the future generation, while addressing the climate crisis?
Millions of people have been affected by climate change, directly or indirectly. We either adapt or mitigate the effects of climate change for survival. In fact, the G20 group that are the economically great countries that contribute to global economic growth, international trades and the regulation of financial markets, have been affected by this scenario too. These countries are not prepared and are adapting as well. The issue is, the poor are recorded to be the most vulnerable group despite being the least producers of greenhouse gases. This group has to deal with the aftermath of the climate change created by those unsustainable, money-making industries and businesses in the developed countries, mostly. According to a Climate Risk Index released in the article entitled, ‘Climate change hit poorest countries hardest in 2019’, countries like South America, Asia and East Africa are affected badly by storms and heavy rains due to climate change. Climate Risk Index indicates the level of exposure and extra preparedness a country needs to face impending unpredictable events and phenomena. Next, climate change is seen to increase the global cost of adaptation, according to the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2016. By 2050 a predicted sum of US$280 billion to US$500 billion is required annually to adapt to the climate crisis.
Climate change accounts for 10% of global deaths, either due to extreme hot or cold weather, which is equivalent to 5 million deaths every year. According to Professor Yumin Guo in the article, ‘Extreme temperatures kill 5 million people a year with heat-related deaths rising’, deaths are expected to escalate as there is already a rising trend in the number of deaths across the northern hemisphere from heat waves. This is such as the planet is on track at 3°C in terms of temperature increase, in which, scientists have warned that another 2°C warming would be catastrophic to all lives on Earth. Although the trend showed us higher cold-related deaths from 2000 until 2006, the graph is taking a reverse stand as heat-related deaths have increased 0.2% while cold-related deaths have reduced by 0.5% from 2000-2019.
Heatwaves roast U.S. Source: Yahoo News.
Next, as climate change is unevenly heating and cooling different regions and parts of the world, it has led to many other direct and indirect effects to all living things as well. The warming of Earth has caused a massive loss in Arctic glaciers that gives rise to a rising sea level, which causes more storms and coastal flooding. Many countries are at risk of sinking. In fact, Jakarta, a great city of Indonesia, has shown blatant signs of sinking. Jakarta faces this issue due to the rising sea level and the rapid consumption of groundwater to obtain water. This scenario causes a gradual sink or collapse of the land. The surge of storms and coastal flooding could result in higher vulnerability in the coastal system. Coastal flooding affects the source of food and the clean water supply for humans and animals. Water-borne diseases and contaminated food would occur more commonly in the coming years, resulting in more deaths.
Jakarta is sinking so fast that it could end up underwater.
Source: Josh Haner, New York Times.
Climate refugees, where humans migrate to adapt to climate change, are already occurring and may take place in a greater number. According to IDMC, in 2020, about 40.5 million refugees have been recorded to cross borders due to extreme weather. This appalling figure proves human migration is the consequence of climate change and humans need a more comfortable place to dwell. Animals and pests tend to migrate to adapt to the unpredictable climate too. Mass migration of animals and pests is showing the emergence of novel diseases. Climate change has caused twice the disease outbreaks by fleas, ticks, rodents, mosquitoes and more. Zika virus, Hantavirus and Lyme disease are some of the examples.
Furthermore, climate change has caused unpredictable rainfall patterns that directly affect the crops and livestocks. Humans that depend on such businesses for survival have committed suicides due to the uncontrollable damages caused by climate change. This is such, as years of hard work and capital have been invested to establish such businesses. When certain crops are drowned in excessive rainwater or suffer from drought, these crops wilt and die, disrupting the source of income. Small farmers in India, tend to commit suicide due to such loss. Clearly, the changes in the climate system are making us dubious of what is about to take place in the near future.
Pondering on what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and how to be a mindful consumer, there are a few steps to practise. Firstly, we could reduce our carbon footprint. This can be done with steps as simple as carpooling, carrying reusable bags for shopping, saying no to single-use plastics, recycling, composting, gardening and so much more.
Buying locally is also a great practice to reduce one’s carbon footprint as the carbon dioxide that is emitted from shipping the products from a different country to local stores is huge. Local shops require less energy, water and raw materials to supply to the consumers instead of those multinational companies that consume massive energy for packaging, inspection, transportation across borders and more. This way more businesses will incorporate more green ideas to continually profit from the demand and support.
For your information, according to a joint study conducted by Dalberg and the University of Newcastle, Australia, humans are actually consuming about 100,000 tiny pieces of plastics every year. Worse, about 100 million marine lives die of plastic pollution every year due to improper segregation of wastes, illegal dumping and more. Marine lives could not differentiate between plastics and their prey, that they tend to consume plastics instead of their prey. Plastic pollution also turns many rivers non-functional, having no recreational nor life-sustaining values. Such rivers are deemed dead. As a solution to this horrifying scenario, we should say no to single-use plastics. Plastics are made of raw materials that are extracted from Earth and do not decompose easily. Plastics remain in our surroundings for hundreds or thousands of years, in which, with the photolysis process (breakdown caused by sunlight radiation), microplastics are created. Saying no to unnecessary use of plastics can prevent excess energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission to the atmosphere.
How plastic pollution is killing our oceans.
Source: Think Sustainability.
Another significant way to help our environment is to fund projects and research that involves renewable energy, green-technology and innovations, sustainable startups and more. This way, more environment-saving approaches can be studied meticulously, applied and introduced to save the environment. For instance, the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, has stated to donate $100 million to the winning carbon-capture technology. This way, many youths and scientists are focussing to bring a positive change to the Earth with promising technology. Carbon capture technology is certainly a solution to diminish the greenhouse effect in the near future.
Did you know that livestock accounts for about 14% of the total greenhouse gases worldwide? 90% of global deforestation is done for animal ranching sectors since they need huge lands to graze and move about. It also accounts for the agricultural land established to feed these animals. Beef industry is the main driver of deforestation in tropical rainforests. Furthermore, the food is currently enough to feed the entire world, however, more food is being grown to feed the animals in animal agriculture. Not only that, the massive carbon footprint involved in this sector is horrifying. Beginning from when those animals are fed from the crops grown on deforested lands, to the time when the animals are slaughtered, packaged, and transported, too much greenhouse gases are released to the environment. In addition, animals like cows release a very harmful gas called methane, through the rumination process. This gas is about twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat and could heat up the Earth quicker than carbon dioxide. Fortunately, a study by Davis, University of California, has shown that feeding cattle with seaweed could reduce their greenhouse gas emission by 82%. Kebreab and Roque had recorded a blatant result of reduced methane gas when the dairy cows were fed with 50% of seaweed diet for two weeks in 2018. The seaweed is found to inhibit the methane-producing enzymes within the cow's digestive system. The great news is that the seaweed diet in ruminants does not affect the taste of milk, cows’ growth and the efficacy of the system. This means a more sustainable production can be established in the long run with innovation and further studies on seaweed production.
Cows and climate change.
Source: Karin Higgins/UC Davis
Next, plant-based diet is on the rise as the term ‘Veganism’ is going viral, where the number of vegans in the U.S alone, grew from 6 million people in 2004 to a whopping 20 million people in 2018. Furthermore, since the launch of veganuary in 2014, the number of people trying vegan diets has soared five times. This is an amazing transformation as the meat industry is indeed, the silent-killer of the Earth. If only we could start from one plant-based dish a day to cutting out meat entirely, we can certainly make a big difference to the environment. The world would be in a better shape if everyone takes the measures to reduce their environmental footprint.
The rising number of people who signed up for Veganuary.
Plant-based diets seemed to be fringe at first yet thanks to the many influencers who are flaunting their healthier and happier lifestyles, veganism is blooming. Plants are the main producers in the food chain. Plants are naturally loaded with most of the required nutrients needed by consumers. Plant proteins could rival the power of meat. For instance, just a cup of black beans possesses more protein than a chicken drumstick. Next, a cup of tempeh has about 30g of protein in relation to a slice of steak that possesses only 4g of protein. Dark green vegetables are loaded with iron sources and more nutrients. Seaweed, for instance, could feed the world as a sustainable food source that is loaded with iodine, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and more. If the world went vegan by 2050, three-quarters of food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be cut down.
How can a vegan diet improve your health? Source: MedicalNewsToday
In a nutshell, everyone plays a vital role to ensure the world is sustainable and protected. Greta Thunberg once said, ‘Nobody is too small to make a difference’. We have no time but to act now. Be mindful, be sustainable.