The Climate Is Changing
And it’s time we took a closer look
February 24, 2021 | Published by O2
During life’s long and complicated journey, many of us are privileged to experience shorter trips; whether that be to the grocery store, the beach, or to another country. Trips tend to be planned, with a set destination, for a specific period of time; they have a beginning and an end. A journey, however, is more long lasting, it is an open ended and ongoing process that ebbs and flows over time.
Distinguishing between a trip and a journey provides a great parallel analogy we can use to examine the current rhetoric surrounding climate. Most of us use the words weather and climate almost interchangeably. It is important to recognize that these are two distinctly different concepts that need to be better understood uniquely. So, think of it like this; when one goes on a trip they are usually more concerned about the weather, but when we consider life’s greater journey, we are more worried about the climate. The temperature can fluctuate 10 degrees, and the weather can change from day to day without us thinking much about it. What we need to be more mindful about is the incremental changes that are happening over hundreds of years, and the impact that these changes are having on the Earth’s climate.
Climate change is a highly controversial issue that many support, and many continue to question. However, there is substantive research that points to a decrease in the Earth’s overall core temperature. Based on such research it seems appropriate to assert that these changing climate patterns play a significant role in a number of ways.
What is climate change, exactly?
As mentioned above, when we think about the climate we must think long term. Therefore, when we think about climate change we must acknowledge that this is a global phenomenon that has become increasingly problematic over many, many years. It is not news that the Earth’s climate has been changing for decades; the more frightening part is the speed at which those changes are now occurring.
There tends to be confusion around the terms climate change and global warming. Although global warming is directly linked to climate change, it is not the only aspect of it. Global warming is defined as “the long-term warming of the planet”, but climate change is so much more encompassing than that. Global warming is the reason for other dangerous signs of climate change including: droughts, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, tropical storms, and increased ocean acidity.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, research has shown that the changes we are seeing to Earth’s climate is primarily being driven by human activities, with the key contributor being the burning of fossil fuels. Humans burn fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and gas, through simple activities such as driving our cars, cooking, and heating and cooling our homes. Ultimately, burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the air, which in turn traps heat into Earth’s atmosphere.
Why does climate change deserve our attention?
The past five years (2015-2019) have been tracked as the warmest on record; a terrifying statistic that definitely warrants our attention. Words like climate emergency and climate crisis are starting to be used to draw attention to the severity of the situation.
CO2 levels have risen more than 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, making the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere higher now than at any point in the last 800,000 years.
For centuries, researchers agreed that the global temperature rise for the year must remain below 2°C, however that number has since dropped to 1.5°C. Because of the rate at which the Earth is warming, it is vital that we set these new goals. Although 0.5°C may seem easily attainable, it won’t be, and we have a lot of work to do collectively across the globe to slow the changing climate.
Our health, food systems, the economy, and so much more are all at risk because of the rate at which the Earth is warming. Climate change is a serious issue, and there is no time to waste. We must implement these strict measures now, before it’s too late.
How can we make a difference?
What we do — and how we do it — matters. Our time here on Earth is short, and how we choose to treat it will have a direct impact and possible consequences for many years to come. There is no planet B.
The two crucial steps we need to take to ensure we are moving in the right direction are: climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. Climate change mitigation refers to reducing the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases emitted in the atmosphere, and slowing the speed at which the planet is warming. Whereas, climate change adaptation refers to altering our behaviours right now in response to the current or expected climate. Therefore, adaption is the immediate trip that if done well can result in a long lasting mitigation journey.
Individually, you can make a difference by using more renewable energy sources, choosing fuel efficient vehicles, eating less meat, buying local food, recycling, and planting trees. Remember that one person can make a difference, in fact social scientists have found that when one individual is sustainably-conscious, others around them are likely to follow in their footsteps.
Climate change is an ongoing journey that will have many short trips along the way. We must continue to have a long term view in all that we do – whether it be the economy, our education, or the environment. As the Earth’s core temperature continues to rise, it is important we find ways to adapt and mitigate these changes so that the Earth can be a safe and prosperous place for centuries to come.