Oslo, Norway: Thousands join in the “People’s Climate March”, 21.9.2014. (Photo: Rrodrick Beiler)
At the start of this year, I felt impressed to become better aware of sustainable practices and the impact of climate change.
So began my journey to better understanding the state of our environment, and the simple steps we can all take to create a sustainable world for our children. I started with reading up on climate change, and this is what I learned:
Some Simple Climate Change Stats
- Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, mostly from fossil fuel emissions, but also due to land clearing. And the ocean has absorbed about 30% of that, causing ocean acidification.
- The 2016 State of the Climate report says Australia’s climate has warmed since national records began in 1910 – especially since 1950. Australia’s top five warmest years on record at that time included 2013, 2014 and 2015. And our mean surface air temperature is now about 1°C warmer than in 1910.
- Since 2001, Australia’s had three times more extremely hot days than extremely cold days…and nearly FIVE times more extremely warm nights than extremely cold nights!
- The frequency of “very warm months” and very warm nights has also increased. Between 1951 and 1980, we only had “very warm months” 2 % of the time, but between 2001 and 2015, these increased more than five-fold, occurring over 11 per cent of the time. In the same periods, very warm monthly night-time temperatures increased nearly five-fold as well.
What Does Global Warming Mean for Planet Earth?
Sadly, if we keep using Earth’s resources and pumping out CO2 at the same rate, we’ll cause what the scientists call a “profound catastrophic effect” on our environment.
In 2015, a United Nations international agreement called the ‘Paris Agreement’ was created to fight climate change, which 197 nations have now signed onto. Those countries are working to keep Global Warming below 2 degrees, but preferably less than 1.5 Degrees.
Half a degree doesn’t sound like much! But the chart below, created by the UK climate website Carbon Brief, shows what that 0.5 degrees could mean: heatwaves going for a week or two longer, less freshwater reserves, more heavy storms and coral bleaching, and sea levels rising an extra 10cm.
We’re Losing Our Precious Animals
Extreme temperatures don’t just affect our ecosystems, but plants and animals, too. Global warming, habitat destruction and herbicides have already pushed many species to the edge of extinction.
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And it was distressing for many Aussies in January when we saw millions of our native fish killed in the Darling River by a combination of drought, temperature changes and algal blooms.
What Can We Do?
While all of this bad news can get us down, here’s the good news: we can make a difference!
Over the next few articles in this series, we’ll look at simple ways we can move towards a more sustainable future. We’ve also chatted to the director of the inspiring new movie, 2040 to hear about new technologies that could help “wind back the clock” and reduce climate change.
Why CO2 is a Social Justice Issue
As Australians we have a responsibility to take care of our poorer neighbours. Many of those are countries close to the equator, where the worst of extreme temperatures and dramatic weather events occur. People in these areas are already being affected, with crops suffering, oceans rising, workers less productive, and less access to safe drinking water. Other effects include heat related illnesses, and water-borne diseases.
But sadly, these nations that suffer the most, aren’t responsible for most of the world’s carbon emissions. Put simply, the unsustainable Carbon Footprint of developed nations like Australia, the UK and the USA, has caused this impact on these developing nations. It also leaves them with little or no way to fight back, reducing their human rights and civil liberties.
That’s what makes climate change a social justice issue. We all have a part to play in making a difference.
Learn More – the ‘Sustainability Tool Kit’
If you are interested in getting your head more fully around this subject, check out some of the following resources:
- Climate Change in Australia, a great resource from the CSIRO.
- The Report on the State of the Climate 2018, from the Bureau of Meteorology.
- ‘Global Warming of 1.5 ºC’, created by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, explains the impact 1.5 degrees will have on the planet.
- The Carbon Brief is a great UK website with simple infographics and articles explaining the effects of carbon on the planet.