You have probably been hearing the term ‘climate change’ a lot in recent times. Well, simply put, climate change is the long-term shift in temperatures and weather patterns.
Those times when it gets so hot you think the sun must be directly on your head, or you can’t just seem to know what weather it is, because it can rain anytime- are some of the very evident effects of climate change.
This adverse weather change is due to a lot of causes that may be natural, such as variations in the solar cycle. However, since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, majorly due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. You read that right, we humans are the major causes of climate change.
In the past hundreds of years, it has worsened in a downward spiral manner.
How are humans causing climate change?
Climate change is directly linked to global warming, which results from a number of human activities. It now appears that as the world’s systems get developed by the day, the quality of living is simultaneously getting worse.
‘Global warming’ is a gradual increase in the earth’s temperature generally due to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons), and other pollutants.
These pollutants emit greenhouse gases that cover the earth- (imagine a blanket of gases over the earth), that trap the sun’s heat.
The main culprit here is Co2 (Carbon dioxide), remember your elementary science where you were taught that humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. We were also made to understand that plants take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. This brings us to the causes of climate change.
Deforestation– Like all green plants, the trees of tropical forests take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen during photosynthesis. When trees and forests are cut down, they release into the atmosphere much of the carbon they have been storing. And like we have seen, Co2 is one of the major factors responsible for global warming. Since trees absorb or take in carbon dioxide, destroying them also limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere.
Power generation– Most electricity is still produced from fossil fuels, and only about a quarter comes from wind, solar, and other renewable sources. We need power, however, generating electricity and heat by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas causes a large chunk of global emissions which ultimately leads to climate change.
Manufacturing and industrial activities– The process of making and turning raw materials into finished and usable products requires energy that leads to the emission of gases that go up to create a blanket over the earth, trapping in the sun’s heat and increasing temperatures in the area. This is a lot more in industrial areas where there are lots of industries.
Food production– Producing food requires energy to run farm equipment or fishing boats, usually with fossil fuels. The growing of crops when using fertilizers and manure can also cause emissions. Cattle produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. And emissions also come from packaging and distributing food.
Transportation– For one, we know that the fumes emitted from the exhausts of cars, buses, trucks,
and other vehicles don’t feel good to inhale. Most people tend to cover their noses and mouths to avoid inhaling these gases.
However, along with being unhealthy for the body system, these gases are produced from the burning of fossil fuels which these vehicles run on. Road vehicles account for the largest part, but emissions from ships and planes continue to grow.
Powering buildings– Globally, residential and commercial buildings consume over half of all electricity. As they continue to draw on coal, oil and natural gas for heating and cooling, they emit significant quantities of greenhouse gas emissions.
Consumer habits– The overconsumption of goods such as foods, drinks (especially in plastics), other household services, and how much waste you discard all contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases. A 2015 study found that the production and use of household goods and services were responsible for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Effects of climate change
Climate change leads to a series of events and effects that are unpalatable and a danger to human existence in the long run. They are:
Changes in temperature
This leads to changes in rainfall and results in more severe and frequent storms. The outcome is flooding and landslides, destroying homes and communities, and costing loads of resources. In Lagos for example, the incidence of flooding has worsened in recent times.
Increased incidence of poverty and displacements
Climate change increases the factors that put and keep people in poverty. Floods may sweep away slums, destroying homes and livelihoods. The high temperature can make it difficult to work outdoor jobs. Reports say that weather-related disasters displace 23 million people a year, leaving many more vulnerable to poverty.
Nearly all land areas are seeing more hot days and heatwaves. According to the United Nations, 2020 was one of the hottest years on record. These higher temperatures also increase heat-related illnesses and can make it more difficult to work and move around. Also, wildfires can start more easily and spread more rapidly when conditions are hotter. More people complain of heat, especially in a commercial area like Lagos where there are fewer trees than people and buildings.
In more regions, water is becoming more difficult to access. Droughts can stir destructive sand and dust storms that can move billions of tons of sand across continents. Deserts are expanding, reducing land for growing food. Now, many people now face the threat of not having enough water on a regular basis.
Most of the heat from global warming is soaked up by the ocean
This melts ice sheets and raises sea levels, thereby threatening coastal and island communities. The ocean also absorbs carbon dioxide, keeping it from the atmosphere. More carbon dioxide makes the ocean more acidic, which endangers marine life, and well, that means less food which means humans are endangered too.
Climate change poses risks to the survival of species on land and in the ocean
These risks increase as temperatures climb. Forest fires, extreme weather and invasive pests and diseases are among many threats. Some species will be able to relocate and survive, but others will not.
Changes in climate and increases in extreme weather events are among the reasons behind a global rise in hunger and poor nutrition. Fisheries crops, and livestock may be destroyed or become less productive. Heat stress can diminish water and grasslands for grazing. This means humans are endangered too as a result of climate change.
More health risks
Changing weather patterns are expanding diseases such as malaria. Extreme weather events increase disease and death and make it difficult for health care systems to keep up. Other risks to health include increased hunger and poor nutrition in places where people cannot grow or find sufficient food.
How then can I reduce climate change?
To reduce climate change, we are not saying you should not eat or go out in vehicles. There are however ways you can do your part, as we need to strike the balance between developing the world and preserving human existence.
2. Reduce food and plastic wastes
You can do this by buying the food you can eat, and actually eating it. Investing in reusable plates and bottles would go a long way to reduce plastic wastes we see when it rains.
3. Save that plant or tree
Now, you know we need the oxygen given out by plants to survive. Try as much as possible to save the earth, one plant/tree at a time. Imagine we all do that, the world would be much more habitable. Participate in tree-planting projects or exercises around you. And who knows, we may be able to accurately predict our weather again.
4. Consider powering your home and office with renewable energy
Solar energy is one very viable option that is fast becoming popular. Utilizing this would greatly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and curtail global warming and ultimately climate change
5. Buy energy-saving light bulbs and rethink energy consuming appliances
LED light bulbs use up to 80 percent less energy than regular bulbs. They may be a bit more expensive than the regular ones, but are cheaper in the long run: A 10-watt LED that replaces your traditional 60-watt bulb will save you some money and, well, our lives.
The cheapest way to reduce emissions is energy efficiency. When shopping for refrigerators, washing machines, and other appliances, look for the ‘energy star’ It tells you which ones are the most energy-efficient.
6. Walk when you can
Remember when tricycles and motorcycles were banned in Lagos state, and people had to walk, the atmosphere was to an extent free from harmful gases because there were fewer vehicles on the highways and streets. The lockdown also gave that effect, as nature recovered a great deal.
In some countries, marine life assumed to be absent, resurfaced while animals were reportedly seen on streets in some others. Walking is good for your health too and would reduce the burning of fuels from vehicles. You could also choose to leave your personal ride at home sometimes and take the bus or train. It would mean less harmful gases on the road that day, less traffic, and you would be doing the earth a great service.
7. Reduce water waste
Saving water reduces carbon pollution, too. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to pump, heat, and treat your water.
Take shorter showers, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. You’ll be doing Mother Earth more than some good.
Conclusively, reducing climate change is a collective responsibility. We all need to do our part to create a balance in the world preserve the human race. Educate those around you as well, and constantly practice. The government is also committed to doing all it can to save the Earth.