Climate Change, its Effect on Our Planet, and How to Mitigate It
Updated: Jun 2
Climate change is the decisive crisis of our time and is happening even faster than feared. But we are far from powerless in the face of this global threat.
No corner of the world is immune to the devastating effects of climate change.
Rising temperatures lead to:
Food and water insecurity
Conflict and terrorism
Sea levels are rising, the Arctic is melting, coral reefs are dying, the oceans are acidic, and the forests are on fire.
It's clear that business as usual is no longer good enough. Now that the infinite cost of climate change is reaching irreversible highs, the time for bold collective action needs to happen now.
What is causing global warming?
Temperatures on earth are livable due to a natural process known as the greenhouse effect. When solar radiation reaches our atmosphere, some is reflected back into space, while some go through the earth and are absorbed by the earth.
This process heats the earth's surface.
The geothermal heat is radiated outwards and absorbed by gases in the earth's atmosphere. These are known as "greenhouse gases," and they prevent heat from disappearing back into space.
It keeps the earth at an average temperature of around +15 ° C instead of -18 ° C.
Facts about climate change
1. As the industrial revolution began in the 18th century, we began to emit more fossil fuels from coal, oil, and gas to power our cars, trucks, and factories.
When you drive a "smarter" car, you not only save gas but also prevent global warming.
2. The atmosphere contains more carbon dioxide today than ever before in the last 800,000 years.
3. Although Americans make up only 4 percent of the world's population, they produce 15 percent of carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels - by far the most significant proportion of any country.
4. Since 1870, the global sea level has risen by about 20 cm.
5. Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes breaks up earlier, areas with flora and fauna have shifted, and trees bloom earlier.
6. Heat waves caused by global warming place a higher risk of heat-related illness and death, most common in people with diabetes who are elderly or very young.
7. According to the US Global Change Research Program, the temperature in the US has increased 2 degrees and rainfall 5% over the past 50 years.
8. Global warming puts coral reefs at risk as the ocean warms up. Scientists fear that coral reefs cannot adapt quickly enough to changing conditions and that bleaching incidents and diseases will increase
Countries affected by climate change the most
In 2018, Japan was hit by three exceptionally severe extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall, which was twice as humid as the country's wettest day to date.
The torrential rains caused flash floods and mudslides that killed more than 200 people, damaged more than 5,000 homes, and displaced 2.3 million people. The storm damage amounted to more than $7 billion.
2. The Philippines
Typhoon Mangkhut plowed through the northern Philippines as a category five typhoon - the strongest typhoon recorded worldwide at the time.
Mangkhut landed at a speed of up to 270 kilometers per hour and affected more than 250,000 people across the country. About 59 people were killed, most of them from landslides caused by the heavy rains.
One of the most surprising countries on the list was Germany, which had the hottest year ever due to a severe heatwave. With temperatures, almost 40 degrees Fahrenheit above the average.
The heatwave killed more than 1,000 people in 2018. After heavy rains in January, only a percentage of average rainfall fell in the summer, resulting in a drought in October that devastated much of the country's soil.
Around 8,000 farmers have been asked to seek emergency aid worth approximately $1.18 billion to offset their losses.
Cyclone Ava hit Madagascar, which landed in the eastern part of the island, where cities were flooded, and buildings collapsed.
Ava reached a top speed of 118 mph, and 51 people were killed. Ava was followed by Cyclone Eliakim, which affected more than 15,000 people, including 17 deaths and nearly 6,300 temporary displacements.
Cyclone Ava and Eliakim were jointly responsible for forcing 70,000 people to seek refuge.
The annual monsoon season, which runs from June to September, hit India hard, particularly Kerala during 2018.
480+ people died due to drowning or landslides as a result of the floods, the worst in a hundred years.
More than 220,000 people had to leave their homes, and 20,000 homes and 80 dams were destroyed. The damage amounted to $2.8 billion.
The cyclones Titli and Gaja also hit the east coast of India with wind speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour. Cyclone Titli killed at least eight people and left around 450,000 people without electricity.
6. Sri Lanka
The island nation of Sri Lanka, off the coast of India, had to contend with heavy monsoon rains, which affected 20 districts, especially the south and west coasts.
The provinces of Galle and Kalutara were the most brutal hit, as Galle received more than 6 inches of rain in 24 hours.
Seasonal rains affected the African countries Kenya and Rwanda as well as other countries in East Africa. Last few years, there was almost twice as much rainfall in Kenya as in the typical rainy season.
The country's main rivers in the central highlands overflowed, affecting 40 out of 47 counties, killing 183 people, injuring 97 people, and displacing more than 300,000 people.
The heavy rains last year also affected Rwanda, causing flooding along the Sebeya River. Approximately 25,000 people in 5,000 households were affected, and their homes were either destroyed or damaged by mud and spillage.
The flooding made cholera cases worse and led to an epidemic of mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, which causes fevers, joint pain, and rashes.
Canada has recently experienced freezing temperatures of -49 degrees Fahrenheit - the lowest level in 100 years.
In May, last year more than 4,000 people were displaced due to flooding in the southern region of British Columbia.
Heavy snowpacks were melted by record temperatures causing rivers to overflow.
The same region suffered the worst forest fire season ever, resulting in the evacuation of 16,000 people as 2,117 forest fires burned through the area and caused smoke-filled skies in western Canada, making air quality one of the worst in the world.
The island of Fiji suffered from the effects of three cyclones. Cyclone Gita reached southern Fiji with sustained peak winds of 78 miles per hour, causing more than $1 million in damage and evacuating 288 people.
Two weeks later, Cyclone Josie and the severe flooding that followed killed eight people and displaced more than 2,000 people.
Ways to prevent and reverse the effects of climate change
1. Recycle Correctly
Recycling remains an effective and essential way to reduce your carbon footprint.
2. Support Women & Educate Girls
When women have a voice on family size and livelihood, they can play a crucial role in combating climate change. Support mentoring programs and get involved in microeconomic initiatives that help women start small, sustainable businesses!
3. Renewable Energy
It's no secret that fossil fuel extraction ruins our planet, which is why we have to switch to renewable energy sources.
But even if you can't afford to buy a Tesla, there are plenty of ways you can cut energy consumption, including signing up for solar panels, finding a green utility company, and replacing all of your light bulbs with LEDs.
4. Green Community
Gas-powered vehicles gobble up fossil fuels, clog highways and spew toxic greenhouse gases. That adds up to a TON of pollution, so whenever possible, use your bike, hop on a bus or train, or lace up your hiking boots.
5. Eat Less Meat
There's no getting around it: It's just wrong to eat farm animals from thousands of kilometers away - for our health, the planet, the animals, and our wallets.
Try to include more local, plant-based meals in your diet. You may be pleasantly surprised at how delicious vegetables can be!
6. Plant More Trees
Because when it comes to protecting the climate, trees are beneficial, and planting trees has consistently proven to be the best solution to climate change.
That's because trees help purify the air, stabilize the soil, protect biodiversity, offset carbon, and much more.
7. Use Less Plastic
It was recently discovered that most plastics are pressed and shipped to countries with lax environmental laws. Until we have a better recycling system, the best thing to do is to avoid plastic entirely.
While some of these solutions could be costly in the short term, many will pay off in the long run. Our responsibility is to ensure that our posterity inherits a clean and habitable planet for the benefit of all.
An analysis by NASA shows that 2020 was the warmest year on record, tying 2016 and its El Nino effect.
Furthermore, it showed an increasing trend, so we can expect that earth is just going to get hotter. But how did the earth get hotter despite the drastic slowdown in human activities? Learn more here.
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Abdul-Qudus Oyekanmi is a Nigeria-based full-stack digital marketer and activist at the International Youth Organization for Peace and Sustainability.