Esther Nwafor 

Close your eyes. Imagine that you are outside; the wind blows gently against your skin, the grass tickles your bare feet, the birds are chirping a song up in a tree close to you, and you are at peace. But then the clean wind stops, and a putrid stagnant air takes up its place. Then you are gasping, choking. The grass has wilted into brittle, harsh spikes. There are no trees for any birds. This may be your fate—our fate—if our planet continues on the path of decay that is climate change. Climate change is one topic that a lot of us are familiar with and that all of us should be since the future of our planet literally depends on it. Climate change, in short, is a change in the Earth’s usual climate (National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration, 2014). It may seem minor but poses as a major threat as it leads to a list of adverse effects including stronger and more intense hurricanes, more droughts, a rise in sea level and a rise in global temperatures (I don’t even want to think about how hot the summers may get). Despite all of this, like all other villains, climate change can be defeated. I believe that we can achieve this by conserving resources such as water and energy, planting more trees, using renewable energy, and recycling. Yes, it’s that easy.

Causes

NASA (2018) states that the main cause of climate change is the “greenhouse effect”, which is the “warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space”. Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to the greenhouse effect. One greenhouse gas we are rather familiar with is carbon dioxide, which is produced by both natural processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions, and man-made processes such as the burning of fossil fuels to produce energy used in our homes, cars, and in industries, and deforestation to obtain wood used in building, furniture-making, and as fuel, and to make room for industrial and agricultural activities. These human activities expand the greenhouse effect to a large extent due to the increase in greenhouse gas volume in the Earth’s atmosphere. “What about the sun?” you may ask. “What if the sun is just getting hotter and that is what’s causing the Earth to heat up?” But research on the sun’s effect on current climate change has revealed some useful information refuting the notion:

  • heat from the sun has remained relatively constant since 1750
  • the outer layer of the atmosphere closest to the sun is cool compared to the warmer inner layers of the atmosphere which contain greenhouse gases, instead of an even distribution of heat

In addition, climate models have shown that heat from the sun, solely, cannot replicate the temperature trend over the past century (NASA, 2018).

Effects

Climate change results in copious adverse effects globally including a rise in sea level, the loss of sea ice, more intense heatwaves, which later elevate to a continued global temperature rise, an increased rise in sea level, more droughts and even more heat waves, stronger and more intense hurricanes, and the arctic sea possibly becoming ice-free (NASA, 2018). Millions of people will become displaced and/or even lose their lives due to this. Sounds very horrible, I know. Furthermore, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report October of 2018 predicting that we only have until 2030 before catastrophic events such as extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, and vast food shortages take place as the planet passes its threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (CableNews Network, 2018). That’s just 12 years from now—not a lot of time!

The effects of climate change are also prevalent in Canada. According to honourable Catherine McKenna MP, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change in an interview with Climate Reality (2018), temperatures in Canada are on a rise, and we will also be experiencing rising sea levels over the next century. Compared to the rest of the world, Canada is experiencing a higher rate of warming. Due to casualties caused by heat strokes and wildfires, Canada is also affected economically. Minister McKenna expects climate change to cost Canada five billion dollars a year by 2020 and almost nine times that amount a year by 2050 (Climate Reality, 2018), which may reflect in taxations.

Solutions

As dreary as the issue of climate change may seem, it is a problem which can be mitigated by conserving resources such as water and energy, planting trees, using renewable energy, recycling, and reducing plastic use. Governments around the world should be willing to cooperate by implementing policies decreasing greenhouse gases. This could be centred on the use of renewable energy, like wind and solar power, instead of burning fossil fuels as an energy source (NASA, 2016). Governments can also apply a carbon tax on all transportation and heating fuels that emit greenhouse gases when burned. This provides an incentive for individuals and businesses to become more energy efficient (Government of Alberta, 2018).

We as individuals are also able to make a change, even in small ways. After all, one million does start with one. We can start by using less energy by turning off light switches when we leave an empty room and unplugging idle appliances from electrical outlets. We can also turn off running water when not in immediate use, like while brushing teeth or washing dishes, and not spend so much time in the shower to save water. After that, we can plant a tree tomorrow, or at least get that potted plant we’ve been deliberating on for some time.

And of course, recycling! That jar of spaghetti sauce you just finished? It can be rebirthed as a spice jar, a cookie jar, or a rubber band jar. If you don’t need a jar, that’s okay too. Just make sure you put it in the correct recycling station. That’s not all. Next time you go to the supermarket, take your own reusable bag and ditch the plastic bags. Just bought a drink? Don’t use a plastic straw unless you absolutely have to. Drinking your iced coffee from a cup might be annoying, but the world as we know it ending may just be as irritating.

Conclusion

As climate change’s ravaging effects continue, like harsh natural disasters, rising sea levels, increase in global temperatures, we have to keep working to keep the earth alive. We have to keep working to keep the air clean. We have to keep working to keep the grass green and the trees tall and the animals alive. It is our duty. And if we succeed, then we don’t have to stop breathing.

REFERENCES

Brennan, P. (2016, May 11) Power play: Envisioning a wind, water and solar world.  National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2442/power-play-envisioning-a-wind-water-and-solar-world/

Climate Reality (2018, July 16) How Is Climate Change Affecting Canada? [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/how-climate-change-affecting-canada

Government of Alberta (2018) Carbon levy and rebates. Retrieved December 5, 2018 from https://www.alberta.ca/climate-carbon-pricing.aspx

Miller, B & Croft, J. (2018, October 8). Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn. Cable News Network. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/07/world/climate-change-new-ipcc-report-wxc/index.html  

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2018, November 15). What is Climate Change? Retrieved December 5, 2018 from https://climate.nasa.gov/

Stillman, D & Green, J. (2014, May 14). What is Climate Change? National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/nasa-knows/what-is-climate-change-k4.html

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