The days are getting hotter, and things will not improve until we wake up to what’s really going on. To meaningfully act, we need to understand that this hot weather is caused by none other than us. However indirectly, our choices have the power to affect the climate and temperature globally.
Humans and climate are trapped in an increasingly deadly feedback loop. Human activity raises the temperature, destabilising whole weather systems. Meanwhile, the changing climate shapes human activity in turn, as people compete desperately for dwindling resources. The main driving force behind today’s global warming is greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from burning fossil fuels. As scientific studies have shown with astonishing clarity, unless we switch to greener alternatives—and fast—the climate crisis will soon exceed our ability to cope with and adapt to these changes.
Average global temperatures only need to rise by 0.5 – 1°C to have a significant effect on climate. A 1.5°C increase will trigger major changes worldwide, including frequent heatwaves, severe drought, intense rainfall, failed harvests, and the circulation of new diseases. The UN recently announced that we have a 50/50 chance of reaching 1.5°C of warming in as little as the next five years.
A 2018 report by Climate Analytics suggests that we hit the 1°C of warming mark around 2015 and, since then, the frequency and severity of climate-related disasters has increased dramatically. To name just a few examples: Indonesia suffered devastating peatland fires in 2015, the effects of which were felt across eight countries and resulted in approximately 100,000 deaths; Hurricane Maria made landfall in the United States in 2017, causing 4,000 deaths and $91 billion USD in damages; India saw massive flooding in 2018, killing hundreds and leaving almost a million more stranded or homeless; in 2019, a deadly summer of heatwaves across Europe left 2,500 dead.
The industries most responsible for our current GHG emissions are often those providing services that have become essential for daily life. For example, the electricity industry contributes 40% of our total CO2 outputs, while online shopping made up another 37% in 2020. Plastic production contributes ‘only’ 3.4% of CO2 but, to put things into perspective, this equates to around 1.8 billion metric tons in emissions.
So, what can we do about all this? We can change our habits—those that waste energy, such as plastic for convenience’s sake, or buying things we don’t need. Every small decision adds up, culminating in a significant reduction in emissions. Let’s save energy, avoid plastic where possible, and shop locally and in moderation.
To close, I would like to remind you all that we aren’t alone in this fight and that, together, we can save our home. I will leave you now with a quote from Dr. Seuss, which goes, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not”.
Written by Glen W. – Student at the University of Palangka Raya, recipient of the Orangutan Caring Scholarship