As we all know, the Earth’s average global temperature has been on the rise ever since the Industrial Revolution. We are able to travel farther and faster than ever before. But with all the technological progress, we’ve come to neglect the natural world. Whether you’re a believer in climate change or not, there’s no denying that the devastating natural disasters happening across the world have been getting worse. From the wildfires in California and Australia to the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and glaciers in Antarctica, the damage humans have done to the planet is finally catching up to us, and people are taking notice. While all this probably sounds scary, it’s helpful to remember that you have a part to play in the future state of our planet.
My passion for climate change research recently sparked back to life after the Washington Post posted an article on September 21 that has been circulating through social media. The article centered around a “Climate Clock” created by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd that was placed in the center of Times Square in New York City (link here). The Climate Clock is not a new idea. The concept has been around for about five years, and the date featured is updated once a year to reflect the carbon usage of the current year. The most shocking part of the project is that the countdown ends on December 31, 2027. This is when some scientists believe that humans will have drained out the Earth’s carbon supply.
You’ve probably heard the term Carbon Budget being thrown around by politicians and journalists, but do you know what it actually means? Our “carbon budget” is a measure of the amount of carbon that scientists believe can be released into the atmosphere before the Earth’s global average temperature is 1.5oC above where it was before the Industrial Revolution, also known as pre-industrial levels (link here). The consequences of this happening are catastrophic. Not only will it cause an increase in the formation of hurricanes and major storms, but it will also cause more drastic melting of ice sheets, stronger wildfires and longer droughts.
While most of the world’s carbon emissions are due to agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels by energy companies, there are so many easy ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint. The best eco-friendly change I’ve implemented into my daily routine is using a reusable water bottle. In high school, I would always have a Vitamin Water or a plastic water bottle with me during the day, which I realized started to really add up when I saw all the plastic water bottles still sitting in my car after a few weeks or classes. The sad reality of the matter is that most plastic products don’t end up being recycled properly. This not only leads to plastic ending up in our oceans, but it also leads to the production of more plastic which emits more toxins into our atmosphere. After switching to a reusable water bottle, not only did I cut down on my plastic waste, but I found myself saving money overall and I was drinking more water. Some of the most important things I’ve done to lower my carbon footprint have also made a positive impact on other aspects of my overall happiness.
One of the biggest areas of your life you can change is your energy consumption. Energy plants are the biggest carbon emitter in almost every single country worldwide, but you have the power to decrease the demand for these products. By turning off the lights when you leave a room, you’re saving energy and can even extend the life of your lightbulbs. By turning off sinks and faucets when you aren’t directly using them, you’re saving water and reducing the amount of energy needed to deliver water to our homes. This helps save water for future generations and helps prevent drought in your local community. Walking places instead of driving is another great way to reduce your carbon footprint, especially while in college. By walking to classes or carpooling to the grocery store, you’re helping take automobiles off the road which will in turn reduce the amount of carbon emissions from car engines.
By reducing your energy consumption in these small ways, it can help reduce the amount of toxic fumes released by the energy plants that create them. Climate change can be a scary topic to talk about because no one wants to think about the consequences we could be facing in the future for our habits in the past. Taking action is so important if we want to have a clean planet for future generations to enjoy, and it’s the small changes that we decide to make every day that are going to make the biggest impact. It’s easy to get lost in all the complicated science that goes into climate research, however, knowing that you can be a part of a bigger solution to these global issues helps make climate change easier to understand.