On August 7th, 2021 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on Climate Change. The IPCC is affiliated with the United Nations and provides scientific data to governmental bodies related to climate change. This data is used to create policies so that world leaders can mitigate the risks associated with the increasing climate.
The IPCC plays such a critical role in terms of climate change as it provides peer-reviewed, scientific evidence of the human-caused sources of climate change and outlines models on how the environment, and world will change if the world does not take accountability and change actions.
In summary, the report states that the Earth is currently at the hottest temperature it has ever been since the beginning of the Ice Age. The report states that all of the recent widespread forest fires, droughts, heat waves, tropic storms, and other extreme environmental events are directly related to climate change and the increased usage of fossil fuels. A direct issue related to climate change is the current rise in sea level associated with melting glaciers and ice sheets in polar regions; an issue that currently has no known resolution.
This means, in combination with additional research on climate change and its effects, the world needs to see major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. As stated in the IPCC report, “global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades”. Direct impacts associated with increased greenhouse gas emissions include:
- The intensification of the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation, and the severity of wet and dry events such as tropical storms and droughts;
- Increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost;
- And ocean and land carbon sinks losing their effectiveness at slowing the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere;
The IPCC report outlines major greenhouse gas emitters to work together to limit cumulative CO2 emissions and aim to reach net zero CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EPA, the largest activities contributing to greenhouse gas emissions are agriculture and forestry, electricity and heat production, industrial activities, and transportation. Although this calls for major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we can begin to do household changes that can cut back on our individual greenhouse gas emissions.
There are a variety of ways to cut back on our individual greenhouse gas emissions in almost every aspect of our daily life.
What can you do to help?
Travel by automobile and aeroplane contribute to approximately 14% of all GHG emissions. If we aim to cut back on travelling by automobile, we can contribute to lowering the amount of GHG emitted by this industry. You can do so by:
- Using public transport
- Carpooling with friends/coworkers or ride share programs
- Cutting back on round trip air travel
Renewable Energy Sources
Electricity and heat production contribute to approximately 25% of global GHG emissions. Investing in renewable energy sources for your home and properties can assist in decreasing this number and increasing the availability and accessibility of these sources. Renewable energy sources you can use for your property include:
- Purchasing green energy through various renewable energy certificates
- Purchasing renewable energy through green pricing
- Purchasing renewable energy systems such as solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, and biomass-fueled combined heat and power
Personal and Household Choices
The agricultural and forestry industry contribute to approximately 24% of global GHG emissions. Changing everyday habits in your personal and household activities can assist in decreasing the amount of GHGs emitted from this industry. Examples of changes can include:
- Eat less meat
- Start with one meatless day a week then build up to only having meat once a week. Cows release methane naturally and factory farming uses a large amount of feed, water, and energy to operate.
- Eat more vegetables, fruits, and grains. Especially from a farmer’s market to reduce travel of the food, and to support the local economy.
- Prevent food waste by turning scraps into something else
- Ex. save veggie scraps in a freezer bag and turn it into a broth. Compost the excess.
- Shop sustainably
- Buy thrifted, vintage, items. Especially clothing – fast fashion is a huge emitter of greenhouse gases and contributes to massive uses of water and energy
- Energy efficient home appliances
- Track what you use every day and how often things are plugged into the outlet
- Switch to LED lights
- Turn down heat, water heater, etc.
- Invest in new, energy efficient appliances and find a local recycling company to scrap the old ones
- Insulate home
- Prevents heat/AC spreading and wasting electricity
- Policies that protect the environment
- Advocate to policy makers
In conclusion, although the IPCC report may seem grim, if we continue to live sustainably and put pressure on large corporations, we will be able to create a tangible change when it comes to lessening the impact of climate change. Sustainable choices are not solely an individual responsibility, rather the collective responsibility of all of us on Earth.
If you are reading this, I challenge you to make a few of the mentioned changes and encourage at least one of your friends/colleagues/family members to make a change too! Although climate change risks are real and a tad frightening, we can work together to create a better and more sustainable future!