An unpleasant topic

No, it’s not about religion. The increase in harsh weather phenomena like hurricanes, soaring temperature during summers, ever present smog in the cities and rising sea levels are ominous symptoms of a disease that can change all life as we know it. The threat posed by it is real, global and dangerous. But climate change is something most of us simply wish to ignore. I know I do. I just wish it weren’t real. I am, like Calvin, in a state of denial.

arun antony on essense

The reason(s) we ignore it might be (one of the below or a combination of)

  1. We don’t know that climate change is real.
  2. Our leaders don’t seem to be worried too much. Even if they are, they fail to commit to a level that can cause any real effect to reign in the destruction.
  3. To take action might cause personal discomfort or will mean that we have to change our lifestyles and denial is much easier.
  4. We really don’t care.

Climate change is real and we are the cause.

The rate at which weather patterns are fluctuating is alarming. Proof of it starting from receding glaciers to bleached out coral reefs are more than we can enumerate here. Despite the scientific community reaching a consensus on this[1] and trying to spread awareness[2] it has had little impact on the masses. Celebrities have come out in droves to raise awareness[3] which seem to resonate more and their actions are commendable.

Climate change is the increase in heat energy of our planet as a system.Period. (Although there were conditions which could cause the reverse effect scientific consensus is that temperatures are rising[4]) That is the why the term global warming is used interchangeably with climate change! Greenhouse gases which trap the sun’s heat within the atmosphere result in rising mercury levels. More the amount of these gases, more the greenhouse effect. And more the heat more water vapour (which is also a greenhouse gas) resulting in more of the greenhouse effect. It’s a vicious cycle.

The human contribution to global warming is through the increased emission of greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide and methane) when we use fossil fuels[5]. The industrial revolution has helped better human lives but it was powered by fossil fuels. We have come far and made great breakthroughs but we still depend heavily on fossil fuels for our day to day needs. We use fossil fuel for:

  1. Most of our electricity
  2. Transportation of people and goods (cars, buses, trains, ships and flights and any mode of transportation you can think of)
  3. The industrial production of steel and cement
  4. Household use – everyday usage in cooking to toothpaste

We also cause deforestation (for agricultural and animal farming purposes) which is the secondary cause. We all know what happens when there are no trees to absorb the extra CO2 released into the atmosphere. Cities, suburbs or any habitat with trees are more cooler and pleasant to live in than the ones without green, leafy trees.

Inefficient and improper waste management also plays a significant role in climate change[6]. Emissions from combustion and landfilling of waste contributes significantly to rising greenhouse gas levels.

Perhaps the reason many leaders(local and global) fail to implement strict emission restrictions is due to a perceived economic downfall. Developed countries like the US, Britain and Australia have a lot to lose by cutting down fossil fuel and dependant industries. The Arab countries lose their primary (and perhaps only) source of income. Developing countries like India cannot hope to progress without rapid industrialisation.

On an individual level most people cannot abandon the personal comforts like driving their car, cutting down on water usage or even waste segregation and proper disposal.

The solution(s) is a multi-pronged approach in which all of us can partake.

Leaders

  • Raise awareness. Heed to scientific advisors.
  • Make policy changes that encourage lesser emissions.
  • Invest in renewable and clean energy sources. Solar, wind and tidal power harnessing is making tremendous progress and becoming cheaper.
  • Support research to create better cleaner living habitats that are economically viable. Studies like this is just a single example of how we can make economic sense while trying to solve the carbon emission problem.
  • Incentivise citizens for using public transport, solar rooftops, cleaner appliances and following other low emission practices. Connect solar and other renewable energy harnessing facilities back to the grid so that they can effectively be free of cost after implementation[7].
  • Increase taxes for high emission products. e.g. Singapore’s model[8][9] of increasing private ownership costs for cars can be followed in developed countries that can afford a good public transport system.
  • Plan for the future.

Citizens

  • Reduce our carbon emission. Although this sounds very technical it is not.

A few easy steps to reduce our carbon emissions are to:

Reduce water usage. Use less of personal transportation means and leverage public transport. Take less printouts. Use less gas and electricity. Control water usage. Produce less waste. Make recycling a part of life. Proper waste segregation. Don’t buy organic. Eat less meat. (The last two cause increased deforestation and methane gas emissions[10])

  • Encourage renewable energy companies by buying more of their products and stock! Go solar and buy hybrid cars with lesser emissions. Buy a Tesla if you can afford it it’s the coolest car ever!
  • Learn more about climate change and how to contribute towards fighting it.
  • Elect leaders who are not in a state of denial.
  • Spread awareness by word of mouth and other means.

To those who don’t care we can only appeal that unless you directly benefit economically from fossil products there is nothing in it FOR you but everything AGAINST your survival. We only have one earth, period. All our assets, hopes and dreams are on this very planet. It is in our best interests to protect it, to keep ourselves, our children and their progeny alive and flourishing. It is already too late[11], we better get started. Let us know of ways each of us can contribute in the comments section.

[1] http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/mains1.html

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Nobel_Peace_Prize

[3]http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/20-champions-of-climate-change_us_564cbf1be4b00b7997f89738

[4]https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/whats-difference-between-global-warming-and-climate-change

[5] https://www.epa.gov/climate-change-science/causes-climate-change

[6] http://www.grida.no/publications/vg/waste/page/2871.aspx

[7]http://www.sciencealert.com/the-world-s-first-solar-powered-airport-is-no-longer-paying-for-its-electricity

[8]https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/roads-and-motoring/owning-a-vehicle/vehicle-quota-system.html

[9]https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/roads-and-motoring/owning-a-vehicle/vehicle-quota-system/certificate-of-entitlement-coe.html

[10] https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions#agriculture

[11] https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/world-headed-for-irreversible-climate-change-iea