WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?
Climate change describes a long-term change in average global or regional climate patterns, often referring to the rise in global temperatures from the mid to late 20th century onwards.
Over the course of the last 100 years the average surface temperature of the Earth has increased by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and the warmest years in human history have all occurred since 2005.
These changes are driving regional and seasonal temperature extremes such as longer and more intense heat waves, increasing the risk of wildfires, reducing snow cover and sea ice and raising sea levels, intensifying rainfall, changing the habitats of plants and animals, causing biodiversity loss and species extinction, and affecting food security worldwide.
Climate change is a direct result of human activity due to our dependency on fossil fuels, intensive agricultural practices, and deforestation.
Coal, oil, and natural gas (all considered fossil fuels because they were formed from the fossilized remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago) are non-renewable and carbon-rich. They supply 80 percent of the world’s energy to heat our homes, run our vehicles, power industry and manufacturing, and provide us with electricity.
Fossil fuel usage drives climate change because when they are burned they release mostly carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Each of these greenhouse gas molecules absorb and eventually release heat from the sun which will likely be absorbed by another greenhouse gas molecule, and this activity traps heat near the Earth’s surface and causes the temperature of the planet to rise.
Intensive farming aims to maximise the production of food or the number of livestock animals held on available land through the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, machines, and factory farms.
Although intensive farming has helped feed the growing human population, it has grown to become one of the biggest environmental threats as it leads to soil degradation, the destruction of natural wildlife habitats, water pollution, further fossil fuel emissions, and deforestation due to the expansion into new land.
Deforestation refers to the reduction in forest areas around the world for agricultural expansion, palm oil plantations, wood extraction, infrastructure expansion such as road building and urbanization, and mining activities.
There’s only around half the number of trees on the planet today than there were when humans first evolved, and the fastest rate of forest destruction has been in the past 200 years. Between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 502,000 square miles of forest according to the World Bank. This equates to an area larger than South Africa.
Deforestation leads to soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, desertification, and an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because when trees are cut down and burned or allowed to rot, their stored carbon is released into the air as carbon dioxide.
The future is in our hands
During the rest of the 21st Century computer models predict that the global average temperature will increase by a further 7.2°degrees Fahrenheit if greenhouse gas levels continue to rise, but with swift action there is potential for this figure to be as low as 1.8°.
Our most hopeful outcome will require immediate and collective action such as switching to renewable energy, driving less, buying locally, supporting organic and sustainable farming methods, avoiding palm oil, and looking out for sustainably managed certification labels. How are you reducing your impact on climate change?