Climate change is one of the most imminent problems of our lifetimes. It affects every single person, place and thing on this planet. Though it may be hard to understand the magnitude of such a global problem, its effects will be insurmountable if we do not all address it in the small ways we can everyday.
You’re probably wondering how did we get here. Let’s start in 1988. It looked a lot like 2020. Abnormal activity was happening all over the U.S. It was the hottest summer on record, there were raging wildfires, and substantial drought. Currently, a third of the U.S. is facing drought, wildfires have burned through millions of acres of Oregon, California and the U.S. West Coast, and July was the hottest month on record for the Northern Hemisphere. Also, NASA scientist James Hansen warned Congress that he was 99 percent sure that climate change was happening now. He cited that in 130 years of climate measurement, 1988 was the warmest year in any comparable period. The following year, in 1989, the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The goal of the panel was to really explore what could happen in the coming century and what could be the physical, economic and political impacts of a warmer planet. The prediction: severe heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires and rising seas.
Then comes climate action which includes the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that entered into action in 2005 (and includes various agreements and amendments) that binds developing countries to a commitment to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions through 2020. The most notable change to this global pact is the signed 2016 Paris Agreement which holds all nations accountable for climate impact, not just developing or industrialized countries, and aims to make changes and enforce regulations to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century.
As leaders all over the world make changes that will affect our climate future, we too have to make changes to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Industrialization that has given us modern conveniences is also contributing to climate change. If we change the way we live, we can change the planet. Here is how to get others onboard to a better environment, one household at a time.
- Rethink how you move around the city. Transportation is responsible for nearly 30 percent of U.S. emissions. This includes personal vehicles, shared vehicles, trains, planes and shipping. Is it possible for you to walk or bike? Can you share a ride? Can you get the item you want locally, instead of having it shipped to you from another location? These small changes help lessen emissions.
- Electricity is also responsible for nearly 30 percent of U.S. emissions. Are there changes you can make at home that can lessen your impact on the electric grid? You can start by optimizing heating and cooling in your home. You can turn off lights and electronics when you are not using them. You can buy energy-efficient products for your home. These are small everyday things you can do to make a big impact.
- Avoid over consumption and recycle what you have. The apparel industry has a deep impact on the environment. Production of textiles produces 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, according to a McKinsey report. This is more than yearly emissions from planes and ships combined. It is possible to lower emissions up to 44 percent a year, by simply wearing our current wardrobe twice as long before buying a new item. Old clothes, electronics, and home goods can be recycled or resold to avoid adding more unnecessary items to landfills.
Climate change continues to affect our quality of life. Wildfires lower our air quality and destroy homes. Rising seas erode coasts and flood communities. Overproduction pollutes drinking water and soil. Energy inefficiencies lead to blackouts. It is not enough for governments to act. We must act too.