There is an increasing awareness of climate change and global warming. But many of us don’t know the severe consequences it has. For many in the world, the effects of climate change have begun several decades ago. For those born in privileged, often industrialised surroundings, the effects of global warming are only felt through a shift in weather.
The planet is warming. The average temperature of our Earth is increasing twice the rate than 50 years ago. Scientists say that this cannot only be attributed to natural cycles alone but to man-made contribution of greenhouse gas emission to the atmosphere.
Most of the man-made emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels in cars, factories, buildings and power plants. Through this combustion, several gases are created, such as carbon dioxide or CO2, which is mostly responsible for global warming. Other gases are methane, which is created from landfills, natural gas and petroleum industries and agriculture. According to the UN FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), livestock such as cows, pigs and sheep are responsible for around 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But most of the methane is still produced by humans through the oil and gas industry. Other gases are nitrous oxides from fertilisers and gases for refrigeration and other industries. Through deforestation, we also lose forests that would otherwise store CO2.
The effects include melting of ice worldwide, which contributes to a rise in sea-level. Rising temperatures also affect wildlife and their habitat. Some populations of penguins in Antarctica have vanished by 90%. Rain and snow has also increased across the globe. Yet some regions are dealing with severe drought, leading to more wildfires, lost habitat and crops and lack of water. Ecosystems will change to the effect that more species will become extinct.
Many of us who live and grow up in the industrialised cities do not experience the climate catastrophes, which have long been underway and cause millions of people to migrate and flee as a consequence of increased floods, droughts and destruction of arable land. We might experience warmer temperatures and perhaps some increase in food prices, but so far our lifestyles remain pretty much the same. How are we expected to change our daily habits? There are still enough cars on the highways with only one person inside, we have enough energy to keep on lights, heating, cooling and electricity all night, we can still buy cheap imported food and many fly several times a year to short-trip destinations or far-flung exotic countries. We complain about housing prices, lack of jobs but global warming has not really been part of our day-to-day concerns.
Why is it then, that a 16-year-old girl called Greta Thunberg is so vocal about climate change? A Swedish girl started skipping school on Fridays when she was 15 years old to protest in front of the parliament and demanded immediate actions to stop climate change. She realised that our current way of living, and on a global and industrial level, will destroy the planet very soon and thus make life for the younger generation extremely difficult and disastrous. In 2018, after the general election in Sweden a heat waves which caused wildfires in Sweden, she started demanding that the Swedish government adheres to the regulations of the Paris agreement.
The Paris agreement brings several nations together to fight climate change and make efforts to keep the global temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels and to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to the Climate Action Tracker, only a few of the 197 nations who signed have been committing fully to the agreement.
Greta started the movement of ‘Fridays for Future’ where students strike one day to protest against climate change. The movement urges governments to act immediately upon global warming and see it as a serious, immediate threat to deal with. While we can also contribute with our individual actions, it is more so important to hold governments responsible for adhering to the Paris Agreement to mitigate global warming. There are several climate actions taking place in most big cities in the world where one can participate and get informed.