For the past few months, I have been conducting a social experiment both online and offline to assess people’s knowledge of Climate issues and the feedback has been that, there remains a lot of work to do regarding climate education as a lot of people out there both young and old have absolutely no idea what the climate conversation is about or are still in doubt if this global phenomenon is real.
Over the next few days before #COP28UAE, I will be embarking on a climate education campaign in the simplest form to build the capacity of people especially young people out there to inform climate action and as well ensure accountability regarding the actions and inactions of relevant institutions. So to the question, “Is Climate Change Real”?
Yes! Climate Change is real and our collective efforts are required to make our planet a better place for all.
How is it Real?
Let me take you back to early-level education where we were taught the difference between weather and climate. Whereas weather is the atmospheric condition of a place over a short period of time, Climate we were told is the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area. Now, we say there is a change in climate (Climate Change) when there is a long-term shift in weather patterns and temperatures. This change can occur due to natural factors such as changes in the sun’s activity or large volcanic eruptions or as a result of human activities which has been observed as the main driver of this change in the Earth’s climate since the mid-19th century from the industrial revolution era mainly as a result of the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas among other human factors like deforestation, agricultural activities, etc.
Who conducted this Research to arrive at such a Conclusion?
Scientists over the years have been observing the rising temperatures in the atmosphere since systematic scientific assessments began in 1970 according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Prior to this era, many of us initially associated climate change with global warming, a term that dates back to the 1950s and denotes “a long-term rise in Earth’s average atmospheric temperature.” Swedish Physicist, Svante Arrhenius, initially proposed in 1896 that human factors could be the cause of global warming, and as technology advanced over the following century, scientists kept track of rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and ocean temperatures. When NASA scientist James Hansen told Congress that scientists could “ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship” between greenhouse gases and global warming, the term “global warming” gained widespread use in the late 1980s.
However, the phrase “global warming” seemed to mislead some people into believing that the Earth would just keep getting warmer, and this false belief still exists today. Thus, scientists and media outlets started to favor the term “climate change” over time. The phrase “climate change” more accurately describes the wide range of long-term alterations to the climate that an increase in the planet’s average temperature can cause.
How does Burning of Fossil Fuels contribute to Climate Change?
Let’s start with what Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) are. Greenhouse Gases consist of carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapor. These GHGs are part of the earth’s atmosphere and regulate the earth’s temperature to make it habitable for us all (not too cold and not too hot either). However, anthropogenic factors have led to increasing levels of GHGs in the atmosphere especially carbon dioxide which have disrupted the earth’s energy balance. When fossil fuels are burned in the production of energy for our homes, industries, transportation, construction, etc., Greenhouse Gases (GHG) are emitted and these gases act like a blanket wrapped around the earth thereby trapping the sun’s heat and raising the earth’s temperatures. The trapping of heat around the earth by Greenhouse Gases is what we call the Greenhouse Effect. These GHGs emissions result in temperature rises which further cause significant changes in the earth’s climate system.
What Can Go Wrong?
The consequences of Climate Change are dire reason there is the need for capacity building to influence climate action. The News these days is filled with several incidents around us and the rest of the world resulting from the changing climate. Some of the effects of Climate Change include intense droughts, flooding causing the displacement of people and the loss of lives and properties, severe fires, rising sea levels, heat waves, extreme cold, catastrophic storms, the extinction of some species, impact on agriculture and threat to food security and livelihoods, and health risks. I know you have been complaining about how temperatures are increasing these days and I am sure you have heard of farmers complaining about low yield and losses due to the same change in climate. Look around you, the changes are not so far to recognize. That is Climate Change creeping in on us all.
What Can You and I Do?
According to the United Nations (UN), these are some actions to reduce our impact on the environment (reducing our carbon footprint);
Save energy at home by reducing heating and cooling use (If you are in the tropics, you can reduce your reliance on air conditioning by using sustainable materials that would not trap heat in the building in the first place and vice versa), switch to LED bulbs, use energy efficient electrical appliances, conduct periodic energy audits to eliminate wastage, wash your laundry with cold water and hang things to dry instead of using the dryer, ensure better insulation.
Change your home’s source of energy by switching to renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
Walk, bike, take public transport, and carpool when possible to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions.
Switch to Electric vehicles or purchase vehicles with lower fuel consumption (for countries yet to build such infrastructure — I believe in just transition even as we advocate for such policies and infrastructure).
Consider your Travels (Meet virtually if you can, take fewer lights).
Reduce, Reuse, Repair, and Recycle. Every stage of the production process, from the extraction of raw materials to the fabrication and delivery of commodities to markets, results in carbon emissions from the electronics, clothing, plastics, and other products we purchase. Reduce the amount of stuff you buy, shop secondhand, and fix what you can to help the environment.
Eat More Vegetables. Eating less meat and dairy and more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds can greatly reduce your environmental impact. Plant-based food production uses less energy, water, and land while producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions overall.
Throw away less food.
Plant Native Species.
Keep your Environment Clean.
Make Your Money Count. The world is impacted by everything we buy with money. It is up to you to decide what products and services to endorse. Select goods from businesses that are dedicated to lowering their waste and gas emissions, use resources wisely, and minimize their impact on the environment.
Finally, SPEAK UP!!! Speak up, educate, and encourage others to take action. It’s among the easiest and fastest ways to change the world.
#IDGhana #ECO360 #ClimateAfrica #COP28UAE
The Author is a PhD Energy and Environmental Policy Student of the Michigan Technological University, the Founder of the Institute for Development, an NGO into Climate Activism and Gender Empowerment.
Wolfson, R., & Schneider, S. H. (2002). Understanding climate science. Climate change policy: a survey, 30.
Source: Mercedes Rowe Asamani
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