FAQ on the climate crisis by people who don’t have the time to research it
I recently had an eye-opening conversation about climate change with a childhood friend of mine. We happened to start discussing some of the projects I’d been working on. At some point in our conversation I suddenly realized that I spend so much time talking to people who are already embedded in the topic and the looming climate crisis that I had made a horrible assumption. I had assumed that most people know about climate change – at least to some extent.
This friend of mine is a neurologist, she teaches neurology and she’s studying epidemiology in her free time. So, she’s busy! She doesn’t have the time to delve into the climate crisis too. She’s too busy solving the health crisis.
It got me thinking. And I decided to write down a FAQ on the climate crisis by people who don’t have the time to research it on their own. The questions are based on the conversation I mentioned above.
I’m not a climate scientist. But as a communications and research consultant it is my job to know how to find answers to the questions and communicate them in an accessible fashion.
Please feel free to share it and if you have questions you’d like to add to the list or sources that provide easy information, please feel free to email me!
The climate crisis is the earth heating faster than we are physically equipped to deal with. Amongst other things, this change in the climate is heating the oceans, melting the ice caps and causing natural disasters like floods and unprecedented heat waves.
It isn’t just the natural disasters that poses as a problem though. For instance, these changes lead to unpredictability of rainfall in places that are dependent on rainfall for water and crops. Simply put, this impacts everyone’s food and water security.
This is a great resource on in-depth information on climate change if you have the time: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
Natural disasters are not a new phenomenon, but as the world warms, these disasters are becoming more intense and frequent. According to an article in the National Geographic “For thousands of years now, emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere have been balanced out by greenhouse gases (GHG) that are naturally absorbed.”
Trees absorb Carbon Dioxide, a major natural gas (74% of greenhouse gas emissions), and convert it into a more human-friendly Oxygen. Among other things the massive deforestation we as humans have undertaken to clear the path for agriculture and urbanization has upset this balance.
“Now, humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution. Changes that have historically taken thousands of years are now happening over the course of decades.”
What are the visible and most tangible effects of climate change that I can witness in my daily life?
Without even getting into the age of extinction, the tragedy of deforestation and the loss of biodiversity, for me personally, I would say it is the rising cost of food in India. And in Sweden, it would be the extraordinary forest fires sweeping through the north in the summer. But with regards to a basic necessity like food, I haven’t personally experienced a marked difference in Sweden. But as the New York Times reports “food shortages are likely to affect poorer parts of the world far more than richer ones.”
And I think that is where a large part of the problem lies. Much of the impact of the climate crisis is already being felt in parts of the world that are already struggling with food poverty. So, to the outsider the difference isn’t discernable, but it is there. It is already there.
Has the crisis impacted your life?
Country wise, according to Forbes the top three are: China, US and India. A bit of a side note, if cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the US.
Sector wise, according to the World Resources Institute the top sector contributing to GHG emissions is the energy sector. “Within the energy sector, generation of heat and electricity is responsible for most emissions (30% of total greenhouse gas emissions), followed by transportation (15% of total emissions) and manufacturing and construction (12% of total emissions).” And the third is Agriculture, including cultivation of crops and livestock.
- Plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide
The research: By planting more than a half trillion trees, we could capture about 205 gigatons of carbon, reducing atmospheric carbon by about 25 percent. That’s enough to negate about 20 years of human-produced carbon emissions at the current rate, or about half of all carbon emitted by humans since 1960.
(Source: read here)
- Reduce beef consumption (One doesn’t have to become a vegan!)
The research: If ruminant meat consumption in high-consuming countries declined to about 50 calories a day, or 1.5 burgers per person per week—about half of current U.S. levels and 25 percent below current European levels, but still well above the national average for most countries—it would nearly eliminate the need for additional agricultural expansion (and associated deforestation), even in a world with 10 billion people.
( Source: read here)
- Reduce dependence on fossil fuels and use renewable energy
Here are some ways: How to reduce carbon footprint
It’s an old article, but still very valid.
- Avoid food waste.
Research: One third of greenhouse emissions globally come from agriculture, and 30% of the food we produce is wasted – about 1.8 billion tonnes of it a year. If, as a planet, we stopped wasting food altogether, we’d eliminate 8% of our total emissions.
Source: read here
Much of this isn’t at the individual level but here are a few things an individual can do: Fight climate change by preventing food waste.
- Avoid Fast Fashion
The fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. And while the environmental impact of flying is now well known, fashion sucks up more energy than both aviation and shipping combined.
Source: Read here
Simply put the ‘Paris Agreement’ is an agreement between all 197 countries on Earth to do what it takes to combat climate change, to adapt to its effects and to assist developing countries to do the same. 188 parties of the 197 have ratified this agreement.
The primary goal is to keep the global temperature rise well below the predicted 2 degrees and limit it to 1.5 degrees. If you are wondering when will this increase happen? I must add that this increase isn’t even. Some places are already experiencing this increase. Hence, it’s even more crucial to prevent the planet from heating up further. (Read more)
Of course, each country has to chart its own course to meet the requirements. But for accountability’s sake the parties who have ratified the agreement need to report on their emissions (how they are limiting it) and their implementation efforts. There will be a ‘stocktake’ in 2023 and every five years after that.
If you have the time, you can find the agreement and more information on the exact details here: UNFCC
In order to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by half by 2030 and then reach net-zero around mid-century.
What exactly is net-zero emissions? It basically refers to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by a selected date. But it isn’t the same as zero carbon – emitting no carbon.
So, net-zero is ensuring the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted are balanced out by either offsetting them through carbon credits or sequestering them through rewilding or carbon capture and storage. Airlines, for instance, offer the option to offset one’s carbon footprint. For a certain amount they, rewild, or plant trees that will offset the carbon for you.
The IPCC report, I mentioned in the first question, states that any scenario that does not include net-zero emissions will not stop the rapid progress of climate change. The Paris Agreement commits countries to achieving this net-zero emissions.
There is considerable resistance to this goal because it requires a concerted change in policy, technology and behaviour from individuals, companies and governments. But on the positive side, much of the technology is already there. It just needs to be mainstreamed. For instance, according to WRI ‘solar and wind now provide the cheapest power for 67% of the world’.
Below is a nice infographic of what needs to change by the WRI. It’s much in line with the solutions we discussed previously.
Source: Read Here
There is a massive amount of complex, very interesting information available on this topic. At the same time, I believe in keeping things simple and accessible, with clear actionable points. I hope this has proved helpful to you. If you’d like to know more, I’ve linked to some of the sources. Or feel free to send me an email!