Almost every year, we break more and more horrible records, from the harshest heat wave, to the most rapid glacier melt. It’s a never-ending process. 2021 has to be the year that we move in a different direction with our consumption of fuels.
Scientists have known for decades that climate change is a result of the emissions of greenhouse gases. But no significant political action has been taken to change our behaviour. In the year 2019, the world was emitting 50% more CO2 than in the year 2000. Why is it so hard for us to save our own planet? What can you, as an individual, do to help?
Last year, Australia was on fire. The Australian bushfire burned millions of hectares and destroyed thousands of buildings. Lives were lost and entire ecosystems perished. In the US a record-breaking hurricane caused a wildfire which amounted to more than $60bn in damages. Windstorms Ciara and Alex struck Europe and killed 30 people. Parts of Antarctica turned green, as the melting snow and warmer temperatures contributed to the formation of algal blooms; a phenomenon which is even visible from space.
Stopping climate change is not as easy as ceasing the emission of greenhouse emissions. Global warming would continue, regardless, for decades or even centuries. This is simply because it takes the planet a while to respond as carbon dioxide (which traps heat) stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. There is a time lag between what we do and when we feel the results of our actions. In the case of no action to reduce emissions, global temperature is on track to rise by an average of 6 degrees, according to estimates. A global disaster is already occurring at the poles of the planet: the Arctic may be ice-free at the end of summer in just a few years. But it may not too late to save our planet. Dealing with climate change will involve two factors: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation simply means reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Adaptation means living with and acclimatising to our new climate.
Recycling and re-using items are examples of important behavioural change that will help make a small but essential difference to the wildlife on our planet. Reusable items such as bags, bottles, metal straws etc help reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean, and therefore aid marine life. Fuel efficient or electric cars reduce emissions greatly, as well as eating less meat, because the meat industry contributes up to 15% of all global missions. As little as one meat free day a week, can also make a significant difference. Planes and cars are huge emitters of greenhouse gases, so it is advisable to take public transport, walk, or cycle as often as you can.
Individual efforts help a lot, however, global coordination is needed to truly stop climate change, as this is a complex problem with economic, social, and moral consequences. The clock is ticking, and our actions now will affect future generations.