What exactly is climate change? How can I stop it?

Traffic+jam+in+Dakar%2C+Senegal

Traffic jam in Dakar, Senegal

 

 

For those who live under a rock, climate change is the process of the Earth heating up as a result of humans treating it carelessly for thousands of years. Now it’s on its way to becoming an uninhabitable wasteland, and the only way to save it is if we act now.

  The Earth has warmed by an average of .8°C or 1.4°F since 1880. This may not seem significant but it could mean huge things for all the plants and animals of the Earth including humans. As the temperature rises, places like the North Pole, Antarctica, and Iceland lose tons of important masses of ice which means that animals like polar bears and penguins will have to try to adapt to survive in their changing environments. This also means that those who do survive and adapt will have less food to live off of. In addition to this, weather patterns everywhere could potentially become more dramatic meaning that cold fronts would end up becoming crippling ice storms and heat waves could cause devastating droughts. And while climate change may not be the cause of any particular storms, rising sea levels certainly don’t help; in fact, they can worsen the impact of tropical depressions and hurricanes.

  So what causes climate change? Well, several things from the burning of fossil fuels to deforestation and overfishing. The Earth was going to heat up no matter what, but during our existence, humans have done nothing but speed up the process. I read somewhere that the Earth is somewhere around 4 6 billion years old and if we scale that down to 46 hours, then humans have only been around for 4 hours. Our industrial revolution began 1 minute ago and since then we’ve destroyed over half of the world’s rainforest. Now I’m not sure how accurate that information is but it pretty much sums up how much we’ve ruined the planet in the short time we’ve been here. But still, there is hope.

 

Scientists say we have around 11 years to try to reverse climate change but even they are unsure how accurate that number is. The majority of the problems are caused by big companies that ignore environmental consequences to make a dollar. We will never fully be able to reverse climate change unless those companies reevaluate their priorities. But even you can make a difference; here’s how:

 

Conserve water. Did you know that the average American uses an average of 100 gallons a day just at home and approximately 5 to 10 percent of American homes have water leaks that drip away 90 gallons a day due to a leaky faucet. So double-check every sink in your house, and if you see a problem, please try and fix it. Another way you can help the environment is if you use a reusable water bottle instead of a bottle made of single-use plastics; you’ll save on cash as well as reduce a ton of plastic waste.

Avoid single-use plastics. Ideally, we could all just give up all plastics but that’s nearly impossible because it’s pretty much everywhere. Only around 91% of plastics are recycled; others are incinerated which can create toxic gasses and only add to the problem of climate change. Plastic is cheap, easy to make, and lightweight. This makes it the perfect packaging material for companies everywhere. In addition to this, commercial fishing companies use nets made out of braided plastic which often gets discarded when torn or snagged. This can be dangerous for aquatic animals to get caught. And the plastic we use on a day-to-day basis can take hundreds of years to breakdown and even then they don’t fully decompose because they are made from inorganic materials. To help combat this, try using food containers made of metal or glass and be sure to take some reusable tableware when packing food to go. You may have also seen this viral video of a turtle with a straw in his nose, so at the risk of sounding like a VSCO girl, I would also encourage the use of reusable straws.

Plant a tree. Planting a tree is a great way to help the environment because these florae come with so many benefits. If you’re worried about costs then fret no more because trees can cost as little as ten cents to plant. Maybe you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty. That’s fine, there are plenty of wonderful organizations that will help you virtually plant a tree. Ecosia is a free search engine that will plant a tree for every 40 searches users make. Websites like One Tree Planted with plant one tree for every dollar you donate.

 Be car conscious. A single motorized passenger vehicle can account for nearly 4.7 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide emissions per year. Some easy and cheap alternatives include public transport, skating, walking, or using a bicycle.

Reduce food waste. People seem to be aware of how much food Americans consume but I’m more concerned about how much food we waste. According to the New York Times, the United States as a whole wastes more than $160 billion in food per year. To put that in perspective, the UN estimates that the annual cost to end world hunger would be $30 billion. So plan your meals and buy only what you need when grocery shopping. If you have leftovers then make sure they don’t go to waste. Maybe even look into composting.