Imagine this: a world where everything is going wrong. Arctic and Antarctic animals are surviving on small ice caps, barely hanging on. Intense disasters like hurricanes, floods, droughts, storms are happening all around the world. Many animals are becoming extinct, and sicknesses are spreading around faster than ever. Our world may become just like this imaginary dystopian world where nothing is going right, all because of global warming. Every year, global temperatures have only been rising. According to Climate.gov, the 10 hottest years that have been recorded are all from after 2005. Our Earth is dying because of global warming, but luckily, we have produced solutions to help reduce and prevent this. Read more to find out about the problem and what some possible solutions are.
Global warming and Its Effects
Global warming is an issue that will only become bigger and harder to solve. Right now, global warming is only causing increased problems for us and the Earth. Temperatures are getting higher, ice caps in Antarctic and Arctic regions are melting at an alarmingly fast rate, sea levels are rising, and an increase in extreme weather is happening because of global warming.
Well, we have already been surviving with global warming happening, and we’ll probably find a way to adapt to it. If we can adapt to it, why do we need to care about it? All the things mentioned above can result in many other consequences such as animals being forced to leave their habitats and becoming extinct, food shortages, the possibility of dangerous diseases and bacteria spreading faster as the climate gets hotter, and communities in coastal areas being forced to evacuate due to rising sea levels that cause floods (Gale, The Effects of Global Warming). These issues can and will directly affect our societies and communities, and the only thing they will cause for us is trouble.
In this photo by National Centers for Environmental Information, many places around the world hit the record warmest land and ocean temperatures, and most places experienced land and ocean temperatures much warmer than the average. All of this happened, in 2021. There are barely any blue areas, which are colder than average, which means that the temperature of the land and the oceans have only been rising.
Causes of Global Warming
But what causes global warming? Why is it happening to our Earth? Well, many people already know that one of the biggest causes of global warming is greenhouse gases being trapped in our atmosphere. According to NASA, the greenhouse gases consist of four main gas types: H2O, N2O, CO2, CH4, and they are blocking the heat from escaping into the atmosphere. These gases come from various sources; fossil fuels burning, deforestation, cows and more. A lot of CO2 emissions come from fossil fuels burning. To create electricity and power for our cars, fossil fuels get burnt and that releases CO2 into our atmosphere. Even more CO2 gets released when we are driving, and by 2016, CO2 alone took up 74.4% of greenhouse gases (Our World in Data). Deforestation is also a main cause of global warming. Every year, 15 billion trees are being cut down (8 Billion Trees). Trees absorb the CO2 that gets released into our atmosphere, and in return, the trees give us oxygen. Each time a tree gets cut down, the stored CO2 inside the trunk gets re-released back into the atmosphere. Since we’ve been continuously cutting down trees, all this stored CO2 is coming back into the atmosphere, helping the gases that are trapping heat. A fully grown tree can absorb around 21 kilos of CO2, and it is estimated that over 1.36 trillion kilograms of CO2 get released into the environment (Iowa Tree Planting). Cow farming is another considerable influence. Cows release methane, which is a contributor to global warming. When cows graze together, substantial amounts of methane are released into the atmosphere by the cows burping or farting (World Wide Fund). All the causes listed above take part and contribute to the greenhouse effect which means the trapping of heat in a planet’s lower atmosphere.
Then, here comes the bigger question. How can we solve, prevent, and reduce global warming?
There are many global solutions that can help reduce and prevent the world’s temperature from rising higher. Firstly, we need to convert major amounts of our energy from fossil fuels to wind or solar energy. Right now, the world’s main source of energy still comes from fossil fuels, which is a big reason why there is global warming.
This data chart by Our World in Data shows how fossil fuels are still the main source of energy around the world. While many countries are using renewable energies, the amount compared to fossil fuels is very obviously not enough. Renewable energies contain solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric energy, tidal energy, and more.
Now, how can we put these energies to use, and why should we? Well, many countries are already using solar and wind energy to fuel their sources. Countries like China, United States, Germany, India, Spain and more have been slowly using wind energy to create electricity. Due to recent updates, it has been found that China is at the lead out of these 5 countries, with 342 Gigawatts of wind capacity installed. China holds over one-quarter of the wind capacity in the world. The 5 countries named have all already installed wind capacities of over 25 Gigawatts (Power Technology). Many countries still have fossil fuels as their main source of energy, but they are all working towards having wind energy as a bigger source. Wind energy is renewable energy, meaning that it’s an energy from a source that won’t be used up. It’s also very sustainable, as wind energy comes from wind, and it doesn’t cause any air pollution unlike the burning of fossil fuels. Lastly, the wind turbines that generate energy can be built on farms or ranches. Slowly, we’ll be able to use wind energy to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. As of right now, “ISB continues to be powered by 100% renewable electricity from two local wind farms located in Zhangjiakou City”, says ISB’s Sustainability Officer, Paola Alonso. The solution is to slowly convert most of our power sources to wind energy instead of fossil fuels.
The next solution is to use solar energy. We can use solar panels to turn the sunlight into electricity. This is quite ideal, as the sun shines throughout the day, allowing the solar panels to receive lots of sunlight. The solar energy would then be used to power the house or area throughout the night. The top 5 countries in the world for solar power capacity are China, United States, Japan, Germany, and India. In 2019, it’s been measured that China has installed 205 Gigawatts of solar power capacity (NS Energy). There are many benefits of solar energy; it’s renewable, just like wind energy. The benefits are quite like wind energy, being that it doesn’t pollute the air, it can reduce our carbon footprint and our dependency on fossil fuels, and it is low cost and minimal maintenance. Now, unlike wind turbines, solar panels are very versatile where they can be installed, as they can be placed anywhere with sunshine (GreenCoast). Solar energy also helps developing countries, as they can help lower electricity expenses. Many villages in developing countries depend on kerosene lamps that not only supply poor lighting, but they also pose a health hazard with all the toxic fumes they emit. (The Borgen Project) Solar panels can take away that health hazard and provide the village with brighter lights during the night as they can absorb sunlight during the day. Many of the villages are in areas where the Sun shines brightly every hour, allowing an easy recharge for the light that’s needed at night. Kerosene lamps can also increase the risk of there being a fire, which could potentially destroy the environment and burn down trees. Using solar panels and solar energy can prevent these fires and health hazards for the villagers while also reducing carbon footprint and helping the world. Ms. Paola says that ISB is currently planning for the installation of solar panels. She also states that “With this project, we will ensure that some of our campus operations will have no impact on greenhouse emissions and will lower our school’s carbon footprint.”
The final solution that can be achieved globally is reforestation. As mentioned above, deforestation is another big reason behind global warming. Deforestation happens because of issues such as creating land for livestock and agriculture and producing paper. In its 2018 special report, the International Panel on Climate Change has said that we need to plant at least 2.5 billion acres (about the area of Canada) of trees AND cut down on our greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the world’s temperature from rising beyond 1.5ºC (Popsci). Although this is more like a goal, there are many ways that we can help to slowly achieve that target. We can do this by reducing our paper consumption and recycling the paper that we use. According to the University of Southern Indiana, “if every American recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, we would save about 25,000,000 trees a year.” That is only around 329.5 million people out of 7.8 billion around the world, as of 2020. If everyone around the world started recycling full pieces of paper, we would save SO MANY trees. We could also reduce our paper consumption, like using more than just one side after trashing or recycling the paper. As a lot of trees are also being cut down for space for agriculture and livestock, we could eat less meat as that could help the environment, even if it’s only for one day. Reforestation is replanting trees, and it would help the environment as we are making up for the trees that have been cut down. It might not be enough as of right now, but if we continue to reduce, recycle, and plant trees, we might be able to make up for all the trees we’ve lost already.
Local Solutions That You Can Contribute to !
Now, you might be wondering how you can help reduce global warming as well. As mentioned about reforestation, there are many ways that we can help in our communities, even if they are just some small actions.
Firstly, we can reduce our use of vehicles, or use public transportation when we can. While travelling short distances, such as to the local supermarket or to a shop nearby, there is no need for us to drive our cars there. As of 2020, 41% of carbon dioxide emissions for transportation are caused by passenger cars (Statista). Many people usually ignore the fact that this distance doesn’t really need to be travelled in a car but do it anyway. This can easily be resolved by either walking or biking, as nearby shops are all usually under 1 km away from the house. Biking and walking can bring both us and the environment many benefits. While we are walking or biking, you can absorb Vitamin D from the sunshine, release stress and unhappiness, meet friends, burn calories, and increase your blood flow. Although staying inside is indeed quite nice, being indoors all day can cause a lack in vitamins, which is extremely bad for our health. Vitamin D comes from exposure from sunshine, and if we don’t get enough, it “can lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures” (MedlinePlus). Bottled up stress can lead to sleeping problems, constant feelings of unhappiness and worrying, and it can even cause physical problems for us. Next, it helps the environment as we won’t be emitting as much carbon dioxide if we were to bike or walk instead of using our cars. This is reducing our carbon footprint as well as greenhouse gas emissions. You may say, “what about when travelling long distances?!” Well for that, we can always ride buses and trains. Although it may cost more money than if you were to just use your car, and it’s still emitting greenhouse gases, buses and trains can carry many more people than cars. If everyone on trains and buses decided to use a car to drive, imagine how much more carbon dioxide would be released.
Next, we can save energy and electricity at home. Whenever we leave the room or house for an unspecified time, remember to turn off all lights and the air conditioning, as well as unplug anything that’s plugged in. We can also reduce our water consumption. Turning the lights on and off doesn’t really conserve any energy, and it’s better to just turn off the lights completely if we’re only leaving for a short time. If it’s still daytime, then we should use the sun’s natural light to brighten the room. It’s okay to keep the air conditioning on if you’re only leaving for a very short time but turn it off if you’re leaving for longer times. By unplugging our unused items, we can save a lot of energy and the cost will be shorter. According to Cnet, “Unplugging devices could save the average household up to $100 per year”. Reducing water consumption means taking shorter showers instead of long showers or baths and turning off the tap while reaching for soap and while we brush our teeth. Doing these can help save water, allowing it to be used for other purposes than to be wasted while we do other things. This helps lower the energy needed for all the water to arrive at our house, and it lets there be less energy used, which means less greenhouse gas emissions. Once again, doing this can also help save energy and conserve resources. There are lots of benefits to the environment as well. By doing these things, we can save energy and electricity. Saving energy means that you will be reducing the amount of power and electricity you are using, which can allow there to be less greenhouse gas emissions, and more of Earth’s natural resources are saved. We can also lower the chance of there being a water shortage by reducing our water use, as a lot of Earth’s water is in the seas, and much of the rest isn’t drinkable. Saving energy is also helping contribute to us having a healthy and happy environment.
In the end, we’re only suffering the consequences of rising temperatures because of our past actions. It’s probably impossible to completely stop global warming from ever happening, but we can still try to prevent and reduce it. If we don’t start caring and try to make a change, then, in the future, the Earth’s temperature will only keep rising, until . Everything that’s already causing disasters for us will only continue, and the disasters will get more intense over time. Global warming is a big challenge for us to try to reduce and prevent, but we can do it if we make these tiny sacrifices in our daily lives to save and reduce our energy usage.
Alonso, Paola. E-mail interview. 27 May 2022. The email exchanged started on 5/23/2022 and ended on 5/30/2022
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Natural disasters have increased in frequency and intensity – more people have been getting affected by them
83 countries around the world have provisions in place in case of a disaster – they have been considering/implementing different systems including climate change projects/program, environmental impact assessments, payments for ecosystem services and laws for the protection of sensitive places.
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