Last week, the U.N. released the first global Climate Change report in over eight years. Based on over 14,000 studies, the report issues a “code red for humanity” and states that global warming is unequivocally a result of human activities.
This data confirm the need for swift action as this impacts us present-day. Just this week in the U.S. alone, more than 150 million people are under heat alerts. Last week, Italy registered the hottest day in Europe’s record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July was the hottest month on Earth in the 142 years of record keeping.
The dire warning however does have a glimmer of hope. As discussed during NPR’s Short Wave podcast, there is still opportunity for humans to curtail the catastrophic consequences by taking actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. On the global scale, the burning of fossil fuels contributes to 85% of human-made CO2 emissions. Deforestation is estimated at 15% of human-made CO2 emissions. Governments can use the regional information in the U.N. report to create climate policy specific to their regions to reduce the looming impacts of increased CO2 emissions, such as worsened heat waves, droughts and flood-inducing rainstorms.
Rather than inundate you with statistics, let’s focus on what we can do as individuals to reduce our individual carbon footprint.
- Walk or bike in lieu of vehicle transportation whenever possible
- Invest in electric vehicles
- Consider energy efficient HVAC systems in your home and businesses
- Switch to LED lighting and natural lighting options rather than incandescent bulbs
- Support local farmers, buy organic and join community gardens
- Avoid single-use plastic products (plastic straws, zip lock bags, plastic grocery bags)
- Reduce, reuse and recycle! Reusable bags, containers and green products are budget friendly and available almost everywhere now.
- Contact your local and state congressional representatives and advocate for effective climate policy and planning to protect your community.
Still need those statistics? Here you go:
- We are on track to warm the earth by 2 degrees Celsius (around 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Two degrees might not seem a like a lot, but for reference, compare what happens to the human body with every degree increase. The planet is currently 1.1 degrees warmer than it was in pre-industrial times. If the planet warms to 2 degrees Celsius, we can expect to see a 19% species extinction, a near wipe-out of the ocean’s coral reef and catastrophic weather conditions for humans.
- Climate change is accelerating at a faster pace since the 1970’s than it has in the past 2,000 years.
- The rate of sea level rise has roughly doubled since 2006. At the current pace, sea levels can rise an additional 5-7 feet by the end of the century which would be catastrophic for coastal communities.
- The report issued five different likely scenarios. In the worst cases, where the world does little to reduce emissions, temperatures by 2100 could be 3 to 6 degrees Celsius (5.5 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That would have catastrophic consequence. In the most optimistic scenario, reaching “net zero” emissions could even bring warming back slightly under 1.5 degrees Celsius in the second half of the century.
With so much going on in the world that is beyond our control, let’s pledge to do our part to improve our own carbon footprint.