A recent research report by planetary scientists has concluded that global warming could soon cross a threshold which will result in boiling hot temperatures and high seas in the centuries to come, even if countries succeed in meeting their CO2 targets. The impacts of this ‘hothouse Earth’ would be “massive, sometimes abrupt and undoubtedly disruptive,” say the authors of the research report, with some parts of the Earth becoming completely uninhabitable. This irreversible damage to our climate system has been caused mostly by us. Although the challenge to try and help this situation often feels like it’s out of our hands, do not think that there is nothing that can be done by the individual. Everyone plays an important part in keeping the environment clean and safe.
Here, we’ve compiled a quick overview of global warming and suggested 10 ways you can decrease your own carbon footprint right away.
What is global warming?
Global warming or climate change, is the rise in temperature of the Earth’s climate system and the related effects of this. The climate system is warming, and it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
What causes global warming?
Human activity since the Industrial Revolution has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the emission of these gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide has been the largest human influence of global warming, causing about three-quarters of the increase in CO2 over the past 20 years alone. The rest of this increase is caused mostly by changes in land-use, particularly from agriculture and deforestation.
Each year the Earth’s forests, oceans and land soak up about 4.5 billion tonnes of carbon that would otherwise end up in our atmosphere adding to temperatures. But as the world experiences warming, these carbon sinks could become sources of carbon and make the problems of climate change significantly worse. The worry is that if one of these systems tips over and starts pushing large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, the rest could follow like a row of dominoes.
What are the effects of global warming?
The anticipated effects of global warming include increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice, more frequent extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall, floods and heavy snowfall, ocean acidification, and species extinctions due to shifting temperature regimes. Higher energy bills from greater use of air conditioning will also be felt worldwide and warmer temperatures can also have major health impacts, increasing our vulnerabilities to allergies, asthma, heat stroke and even death.
Crossing into a Hothouse Earth period would see a higher global temperature than at any time in the past 1.2 million years.
What can we do to help prevent global warming?
For major change to really take place across the globe to try and prevent the predicted catastrophic outcomes, laws need to be re-written and new policies have to come from the top. These policies would have to cover agriculture and the meat industry, use of gas, types of cars, use of many products and items, waste management, consumerism as a whole. World leaders have a huge and lengthy task ahead. As they continue to identify what ‘can’ even be changed and how to change it to reduce carbon emissions, they are also dealing with opposition from prominent political figures who claim climate change isn’t even an issue (!), plus the fact that the aforementioned industries are all heavily linked to financial success of any given country. We must therefore do our part to reduce our own carbon footprint now, and hope that those who can influence global change will work it out in time.
Here are 10 ways you can reduce your own carbon footprint:
1. Reduce, reuse, recycle: Strive for a zero waste life. Reduce your need to buy new products or use less so that you create a smaller amount of waste. When you do need to buy new, buy eco friendly products that are reusable and/or compostable. Landfills are a major contributor of methane and other greenhouse gases. When the waste is burnt or decomposes, it release toxic gases in the atmosphere which result in global warming. So we need to send as little there as possible! Be vigilant with your home waste. Put as much as you can into recycling even if it means taking it to a special recycling depot yourself. Get a home compost system. Sign up for food waste collection services. Ensure all technological products are disposed of correctly. Ban all single-use materials from your household and daily lives such as coffee cups, takeaway containers, plastic straws and cutlery, nappies, plastic bags. Generally reduce your plastic waste.
2. Invest in solar:If you own a property, have solar panels. Incentives and discounts are given by government agencies and energy companies to encourage more people to do this, so it’s really worth looking into.
3. Avoid packaged products:When you buy packaged products you will end up having to throw the waste material in the garbage because much of it isn’t currently recycled as standard. Where possible, take the extra step and make your own. For example invest in a bread maker and buy bread mix / bread ingredients to make this yourself (it’s so easy), make relishes and hummus yourself, make your own almond milk, tomato sauce, pasta. Reducing packaged products may seem like an impossible task but you can organise your time so it becomes part of your daily routine, and the difference to how much rubbish you end up with each week will be so noticeable. Shopping at markets and bulk buy shops and generally buying in bulk will also help to significantly decrease the amount of packaging you use.
4. Plant a Tree: Planting trees can help much in reducing global warming then any other method. They not only give oxygen but also take in carbon dioxide, during the process of photosynthesis, which is the main source of global warming. As well as planting your own, invest in companies who are helping to plant trees – such as search engine Ecosia.
5. Reduce your meat intake or cut it out completely: The meat industry contributes massively to global warming and has been sited as being one of the largest contributors to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, producing more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined. It causes habitat fragmentation and destruction, results in loss of biodiversity and species extinction, wastes huge amounts of water, and pollutes air and waterways. In order to produce animal products – land, water, and energy are required to grow, harvest, and transport the feed that is then fed to the farmed animals.
6. Change your light bulbs: Replace regular incandescent light bulb with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They consume 70% less energy then ordinary bulbs and have longer lifetime.
7. Conserve energy. When you consume less, the less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Setting your thermostat using your smart phone or changing the type of light bulb you use is a great start. Also use less appliances, ensure switches and lights are turned off, and use only what you need in your day to day lives.
8. Look for renewable gas and energy: Buying an electric car is best, however if that’s not possible for you ensure you’re buying the cleanest gas possible. When car shopping, look at the benefits of options that provide renewable fuel. Switch to a green energy provider for your home. Some offer the option of having 100% renewable energy – at a small premium generally, but a premium which is so worth it if you can afford it.
9. Wash clothing using cold or warm water: Where possible, avoid using hot water as this takes a lot more energy for your washing machine than cold or warm.
10. Go green in your every day life: As well as all of the above ideas, look at other areas you can live a greener life. Use energy star appliances only. As well as reducing your footprint, they will also save you money because they will decrease the amount of energy wasted in your home. Decrease your water use (leaving the tap running when brushing your teeth, long showers and baths, rinsing dishes before you put them in the dishwasher). Use less electrical products where possible – for example hang clothes to dry instead of using a tumble dryer. Make an effort to buy products that are made from sustainable materials and are from ethical sources.