My sincerest apologies for the terrible dad joke.
Climate change. If you had asked me a few months ago to explain what it was to you, I don’t think my answer would even be passable for Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. The topic seemed so confusing to me, and if I’m being honest, controversial. I never truly understood the science behind it, but after studying it this semester in preparation for my maymester in Queensland, Australia, I do not understand the controversy around it. Climate change is real and it is happening right now as you read this.
While there is much uncertainty surrounding climate change, such as how much the world will warm or the exact distribution of rainfall, what is certain is that it is real. At its simplest definition, climate change concerns the rise of global temperatures in faster rates than before. While temperatures have fluctuated over time, this increase in temperatures can be attributed to human activity. Yes, I am calling you out right now. You are the reason why this is happening. You are the reason that ice on land and at sea is melting dramatically. You are the reason why the growing season has lengthened across the majority of North America. You are the reason why creatures like mosquitoes and birds are venturing into new areas. You are the reason why by 2050 as many as 37% if all species may be extinct (Nature). You are the reason, but you can also be the change.
You may think I’m crazy. You may be asking yourself how in the world you could be contributing to this insanity. Let me break it down for you:
Humans are releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. These gases absorb the heat that the Earth radiates, but only release some of that heat to space. The rest they keep to themselves, and alas, a warmer atmosphere results. While some natural processes like volcanic activity, respiration, or wildfires, emit carbon dioxide, its main source is human activity, specifically burning fossil fuels. We all do it. We all use energy. We all use transportation. We are all involved with industrial production and manufacturing in some way.
SOURCE: THE THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO CLIMATE CHANGE (HENSON, 2014).
So where do we go from here? How do we stop what seems so inevitable? How can you as only one person change something so massive? Well, unfortunately, we cannot simply stop climate change. There is already so much atmospheric carbon dioxide that even if every single fuel-burning machine was turned off for good tomorrow the Earth would still warm by 0.9 degrees. But this doesn’t mean that we should just give up. We need to adapt to try to limit the potential amount of further warming. Getting involved is easier than you’d think. You can start by changing a few simple things in your daily life.
Cut back on beef: This may be a little TMI for you, but just think of how much cows belch and excrete. That’s a lot of methane emitted into the atmosphere. Also think about all of the deforestation done to create area for these cows to roam and to provide fertilizer.
Eat local and seasonal food: Think of the energy it takes to transport food.
The three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle: You’ve known this one since kindergarden. It may seem obvious, but it’s important.
Buy basics and buy in bulk: Ingredients>pre-packaged meals. Some food-processing tasks require a lot of energy.
Use reusable shopping bags: Plastic bags add to the world’s waste and can kill creatures who mistake them for a tasty treat.
Use a reusable water bottle: Take it from a broke college student, one reusable water bottle is much cheaper than constantly buying plastic water bottles. Bonus: tap water is typically better inspected than bottled water and is much better for the environment.
These changes may seem silly to you, but if you make them a habit, you can make really changes on the environment and help to combat climate change. Do your part. Make a change.
And if you don’t want to hear it from me, hear it from this guy you’ve probably never heard of before: