by Azure Graham
I’m sure by now you’ve seen many news headlines, articles, social media posts about climate change. Maybe you’ve heard your friends or relatives talking about how the ice caps are melting. Perhaps another said that climate change was just a hoax invented by the government to make us pay more tax dollars. Maybe you saw a news headline about climate change affecting the weather. There are several opinions on the subject, and they can vary greatly from one another. I will attempt to provide a brief explanation of what climate change is and how it affects us and our planet, and how we can make changes in our lives to reduce it’s effects.
Climate change generally refers to long-term shifts in Earth’s temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts can be naturally occurring, such as through variations in the solar cycle (Earth’s orbit) and volcanic activity, or these shifts can be driven by human activity. In recent times, human activity is the main cause of climate change. Starting with the industrial era in the 1800’s, the level of greenhouse gases in our planet’s atmosphere has been steadily rising, as a result of the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). The burning of these fossil fuels creates greenhouse gases, which are gases that trap heat from the sun inside the atmosphere raising the temperature of the planet worldwide.
As temperatures continue to rise, ice at the north and south poles melts and the sea level rises. As a result, many coastal cities will face devastating floods that will destroy the homes of many people. Rising temperatures will also create severe droughts and storms in many places around the world. Eventually, climate change will lead to the extinction of many species across the planet. People around the world will begin to run out of food and places to live. These are just the beginning of the castrophic changes that will occur on the planet.
Although the effects of climate change are scary and daunting to think about, many of the effects can still be stopped, slowed, or avoided if we act now, and there are several things that many of us at home can do to help the effort.
One of the first steps we can all do to fight against climate change, is to consume less. Over-consumption is a huge factor of climate change—the production of clothes, electronics, food, and other goods create a lot of carbon emissions, and most of this is of disposable goods that can’t be recycled easily, like plastic dinnerware and packaging, that ends up inside landfills. By learning to consume less and be mindful about our spending, we can help to reduce consumption levels and have less waste ending up inside landfills. For instance, buying clothes that are meant to last or from a thrift store, instead of buying brand new clothes from the mall. Another example would be to use paper straws and reusable tableware instead of plastic disposable ones. Lastly, when purchasing goods, check to see if the company has green values and practices sustainability.
Another way you could help is by starting a backyard compost bin or pile. Composting helps to reduce the amount of food waste that would otherwise end up inside of landfills. It’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint by recycling your food scraps and yard clippings into compost that can be used inside of the garden, plus it’s kid friendly and easy to do. By composting, you not only save money on what you would spend buying compost from the store, but it also reduces the need for fertilizer and pesticides in your garden. It also builds a healthier soil, helps to conserve water and prevent soil erosion.
Fuel emission from cars forms a significant amount of our carbon footprint. To lower the amount of total carbon emissions from our daily commutes, we can choose greener alternative forms of transportation. These alternatives could be things such as walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation to work instead of driving. Another alternative to this would be to buy energy-efficient vehicles that have high gas mileage. You could also make the switch from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric one, which produce less carbon emissions than their gas-powered counterparts.
Going green in the home is also easier than it might seem. Getting energy efficient appliances for your home can help you save money on your electricity and water bills, as well as help you reduce your energy consumption. Installing rooftop solar panels to your home can provide green energy to your home and lower the cost of your electricity bill. Making sure your home is properly insulated and the windows are installed properly will help spend less on heating and cooling for your home, lowering your overall impact on the environment. Replace old light bulbs with long-lasting, energy-efficient LED bulbs to save on electricity for lighting in the long run. To save on water, use your dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand and use a water efficient washing machine for your laundry. Taking shorter showers and baths also helps to reduce the amount of water we use. Most importantly, regular maintenance and making sure to turn off all electronic devices, faucets and taps, goes a long way into making a greener home.
If you want to take it a step further, you can get your community involved. Community gardens, tree planting groups, green roofs, and similar activities are all good ways to combat urban heatwaves and climate change, with the added benefit of improving and promoting social activity within your community. Another form of involvement would be to work with your neighbors and community to promote building healthy, safe, and sustainable neighborhoods. You can also involve yourself with your local government to promote green policies for your neighborhood and learn about how climate change is affecting your area, by joining your neighborhood or community council.
These are just a few steps that you could take to fight climate change, and there are many more that aren’t discussed here. Such as buying bulk goods instead of prepackaged ones, or shopping for used electronics and furniture, instead of buying brand new ones. Despite how daunting it appears, climate change can be combated if we all work together. After all, we all share this blue planet we call home, and we should treat it with love and kindness to preserve it for future generations.
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