Updated: Nov 30, 2020
After recent events regarding the United States’ west coast fires, the severity of climate change is being re-evaluated and the lack of control over carbon emissions in the United States is being questioned. In August, a wildfire that erupted in California covered roughly 4.2 million acres and cost $1.8 billion in damage, which drew further attention to how detrimental global warming may be to the world. The enormous chain of wildfires was said to be caused by a gender reveal party and strengthened by the arid and dry climates as well as higher global temperatures. Not long after, another wildfire in California erupted, causing thousands of people to be forced to evacuate. With these events in mind, people are questioning if climate change is more serious than they once thought, and how much time we have left to take action before it becomes irreversible.
Climate change has always been a hot topic, and there are multiple perspectives people have of it. Some people believe that it isn’t real. Others believe that there is enough science to back up the idea that the emission of carbon from the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of higher global temperatures, higher sea levels, as well as more frequent and stronger wildfires. Currently, climate change is at its climax due to the innovation in technology that makes our daily lives easier at the expense of the environment. Unfortunately, global temperatures are only increasing and the effects are becoming more visible and detrimental.
There are varying opinions on exactly how much time we have to save the Earth and prevent climate change from exceeding our ability to control it. Some scientists believe that we have less than two years, while others are more optimistic and think that we have another decade to control our daily emissions. Regardless, it is important that we take action against our global carbon emissions today, rather than waiting to see the consequences.
While many of us may feel limited to what we can do to help preserve our planet, there are a large number of things that we can do in order to play our part in saving the Earth. Although it may not seem like it, many of our daily activities are sources of carbon emissions. Some examples of these are:
Leaving cars and trucks in idle mode (on but not moving)
Leaving televisions running
Not turning off unused lights
Running the dryer and washer
Using air conditioning
Cutting down trees
These are only a few out of the many ways that humans contribute to climate change. Transportation alone accounts for roughly 20% of carbon emissions worldwide, which means that about 7.4 billion tons of carbon released in 2019 came from driving cars, trains, airplanes, buses, and more. This certainly isn’t a smaller number, and ideally, we would want to reduce it as much as possible. Interestingly, carbon emissions actually slowed down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic keeping students and employees at home, eliminating much of the need for transportation. However, this number will not stay reduced forever. In fact, with precautions for reopening businesses to prevent the spread of the virus, it is back on the rise.
On the global scale, governments and the United Nations are creating plans and policies to limit the amount of carbon we emit. In a report released by the United Nations climate science body in 2018, the organization revealed a plan to cut net human carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and proceeding to strive to cut emissions further to net-zero by 2050. In addition to this plan, countries such as Denmark, Spain, Greece, Sweden, and Australia have created policies and propositions to achieve similar goals at the national scale in order to do their part in lowering emissions. Ideally, other countries will follow similar paths and will slowly begin to implement their own guidelines to reduce their emission rates.
Fortunately, there are many ways that we can help reduce the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere. Some ways that people can lower their daily carbon footprint are by:
Carpooling when possible
Biking when traveling to places that are closer
Turning off lights when you leave the room
Turning cars off when in parking lots or waiting for a train to pass by
Recycling to preserve materials
Not wasting food
Switching to renewable energy (wind, solar, hydroelectric, etc.)
Picking up the trash you see
There is no doubt that these alternatives won’t always be convenient for you, and that is okay! It is simply necessary to recognize the substitutions you can take when completing daily tasks when possible. If you are looking to go somewhere close by like a local library, for example, consider biking or walking instead of driving.
Climate change will always be around, and there is no easy fix. Governments around the world are implementing policies to help control the amount of carbon being emitted, but that doesn’t mean that we can be careless about what we as people do to play our role in saving the Earth. Global warming is on route to becoming irreversible very soon, and it is important that we recognize our responsibilities as people to do our part in preserving the world.
“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 9 Sept. 2020, www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions.
Ritchie, Hannah. “Cars, Planes, Trains: Where Do CO2 Emissions from Transport Come from?” Our World in Data, ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions-from-transport.
“Ahead of Climate Action Summit, UN Secretariat Adopts Plan to Slash Own Emissions by Almost Half by 2030 – United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/09/un-secretariat-climate-action-plan/.
“How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” The New York Times, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint.