Climate Change Effects: We’ve Got 12 Years

Climate Change Effects: We’ve Got 12 Years
landscape picture of city covered in smog
Photo by Alex Gindin on Unsplash

By this point, who hasn’t heard about climate change or global warming?

Even worse, who hasn’t seen firsthand the impact of global warming?

I just discovered last night the newest projection on global devastation due to climate change and rising sea levels is much closer than you might think. Not only are we seeing and going to continue seeing these changes but our children might live to see a “point of no return” for the planet as we know it and our grandchildren definitely will if our consumer lifestyles do not change.

So with the beginning of a new year, I thought this might be a good time to bring awareness to the climate change effects and how to reduce carbon emissions that you could start implementing right now. Time is a luxury we do not have.

The Paris Agreement

photo of globe
Photo by Tom Grimbert on Unsplash

Have you heard about the Paris Agreement that opened for signature on Earth Day in 2016?

The Paris Agreement is gathering all nations under a common cause to make ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. Part of the mission is to keep climate change at below 2 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels and pursue more efforts to keep it below 1.5. Additionally, the Paris Agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with climate change impacts.

To achieve these goals, the Agreement is putting in place a new technology framework and enhanced capacity building framework to support action by the most vulnerable and developing countries to align them with their objectives. The Agreement requires that all nations put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” and strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes regularly reporting from nations on their emissions and implementation efforts. (1)

Shooting for 1.5 Celcius in 12 Years

The world is already feeling the impact. Our planet has already warmed by 1C from preindustrial levels. After the devastating hurricanes in the US and forest fires in the Arctic, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), stressed in Oct. 2018 that we have 12 years to keep the climate change from rising over 1.5 Celcius. Even a half degree more, will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat, and poverty that will be felt by hundreds of millions of people.

Why target 1.5 instead of 2C? How much difference can half a degree make?

If temperatures are kept to 1.5C:

Homeless man lying on pavement
photo by KasunChamara from Pixabay
  • By 2100, global sea levels will be 10cm lower than at 2C.
  • Extreme heatwaves will be experienced by 14% of the world’s population at least once every 5 years but that figure rises to more than a third of the planet at 2C.
  • Artic sea ice would remain during most summers but ice free summers are ten times more likely at 2C. Thus, this would lead to a greater loss of habitat for whales, polar bears, seals, and sea birds.
  • Coral reefs will decline by 70-90% but will virtually disappear if temperatures reach 2C.
  • The part of the population exposed to water stress will be 50% lower than at 2C.
  • Food scarcity would be less of a problem and fewer people in poor countries would be at risk for climate-related poverty (we are talking hundreds of millions here).
  • At 1.5C the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower than at 2C, it notes. Food scarcity would be less of a problem and hundreds of millions fewer people, particularly in poor countries, would be at risk of climate-related poverty.
  • At 2C, extremely hot days (at 122F or 50C) will become common resulting in more heat-related deaths and forest fires.
  • Insects, which are necessary for pollination of crops, and plants are almost twice as likely to lose half their habitats.
  • Oceans are already suffering from higher acidity and deficient oxygen levels due to climate change. At 2C, 3 million tons from fisheries would be lost as opposed to only half that at 1.5C. (2)                                                                            

Can We Change the Course of Things? 

copy of the book World Changing on table
photo by Greg Bakker from Unsplash

A 2011 report from the Copenhagen Diagnosis clarifies that even if we take action now in reducing our carbon emissions, we cannot stop the climate change that has already begun. Carbon already has an incredibly long lifespan of at least 100 or more years. And although much of this carbon is absorbed by the oceans, at least 25% of that will still be lingering in our atmosphere 1,000 years from now according to scientist, David Archer. (3)

However, we can still mitigate the rise in temperature by taking steps to reduce and eventually completely eliminate human carbon emissions. The IPCC states that these changes are completely feasible and affordable even if they target the more ambitious end of the Paris Agreement pledge. Even better news is that we already have the technology needed to start reducing carbon.

They state that carbon will have to be pulled out of the air by machines and stored underground. Likewise, billions of trees need to be planted and people might have to make the difficult choices between using land for food or energy crops.

Unfortunately, the political arena has not been taking the clamorous cry from the scientific community seriously. Donald Trump has promised to withdraw the US, the world’s biggest source of historical emissions, from the accord and in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has threatened to do the same and open the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness.

What Can I Do to Make a Difference?

girl with protest sign on back sign says we can be heroes just for one day by David Bowie
Photo by Jessica Podraza on Unsplash

Many people may feel that they can make little to no difference in climate change but the IPCC states it is quite the opposite. 

The author’s of the report state that changes must be made in four key parts of society: energy generation, land use, cities, and industry. The biggest impact that you can make to help work toward reducing carbon emissions is to change your lifestyle and consumption patterns to more sustainable alternatives specifically in areas you can control such as modes of transportation, buildings you inhabit, and food preferences.

In transportation, IPCC suggests consumers to shift toward more sustainable choices like car sharing, hybrid, and electric cars. The report looks at using more efficient modes like swapping cars, trucks, and planes to buses and trains.

With buildings, using energy efficient appliances and air conditioners as well as smart thermostats.

In diets, it is suggested to consume about 30% less animal products. Eating less meat is a great way to overhaul agricultural and land-use practices including protecting forests. The livestock industry is estimated to account for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally (more than direct emissions from the transport sector). (4

Moving Towards Zero Waste

The above list is a great starting point in taking your consumer power and using it to reduce our global emissions impact. But there’s another consumer practice that could greatly help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quicker and would cost you less money to implement than buying a new air conditioner or car: producing less trash.

glass bottle on beach
Photo by Scott Van Hoy on Unsplash

Moving toward a zero waste lifestyle and encouraging businesses to do likewise by supporting ones that have already implemented zero waste policies, would significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

Landfill gas is a natural byproduct of decomposition of organic materials in landfills. This gas is approximately 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide. Methane is 28-36 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere but has a much shorter lifespan than carbon (12 years vs. 100 or more years for carbon).

In 2010, our landfills released 800 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in the form of methane with the US holding the highest amount at 130 million or possibly more. (5

If efforts were to be made now to reduce short-lived climate pollutants like methane, we could reduce warming by half a degree in 2040 according to the UN Environment Programme. So by reducing the amount of methane in the air would greatly improve overall air quality and reduce climate change at least to buy us more time to solve the other bigger problem.

Not sure how to start moving towards a zero waste lifestyle?

The best place to start this practice is by reducing food waste and composting food scraps and yard materials. And you can start doing these things right now. If you’d like to learn more ways to go zero waste, my next post will cover this topic so just hang tight a little longer.


I really hope you found this post helpful. With the stark realization that we cannot stop this global climate change from happening, there is hope that with the changes we make now can mitigate the worst results from happening. We can still raise our children and their children to know the planet as we do. But these changes must begin now.

So how about you make the New Year’s resolution with me to start changing our households to zero waste?

Let’s use our consumer power to move our nations towards a zero waste and sustainable lifestyle. Because this issue belongs to everyone.

If you have any questions on the effects of climate change or have other resources or information you would like to share, please leave me a comment below. 

I look forward to going zero waste together!

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8 thoughts on “Climate Change Effects: We’ve Got 12 Years”

  • This is really informative and educative. How I wish there is a way global warming can be stopped then it will be better but reading this post have seen ways in which this can be reduced such as reducing food wastages. It’s until people are educated of this fact then the reduction will be effective. I will strongly share this post to my friends.

    • Hi Lok! Thanks for visiting my post and taking the time to talk with me about it.

      I agree that people need to be educated about the facts behind climate change and how we can help. I hope to play a part in getting this information out there especially in light of the fact so many people still don’t know what is going on exactly. I feel like if most people could get behind making just a few small sacrifices now, that we can prevent being forced to make much harder ones later. 

      Plus, if more people can get behind this, we can start using that power to move nations to action. 

      Thanks again for the visit!

      Tina

  • We had been bombarded of global warming alerts during the last decades and now it’s a common subject of discussion. I don’t think we are changing our lifestyle and consumption patterns, and we still use cars, airplanes, bikes, ships, more than ever before.

    If a big part of the whole population decides to eat less meat, then the food industry will produce other products, alternatives. But this change in food production will affect other industries or will have a negative impact on global warming as well. 

    If Earth is really in danger, then the modern humans are unable to find a solution, at least for the moment.

    • Hi Tasos! Thanks for visiting my post and taking the time to talk with me about it.

      I agree with you that people aren’t changing their lifestyle patterns which is part of the problem. Also, I agree that we still use cars and other modes of transportation more than ever. Some of this is out of our control like using a bus instead of a car. What do you do if you live in a city without any or substandard mass transit? Also, not all of us can afford to go out and buy an electric vehicle either. 

      Some of this won’t change until our infrastructures change. And that falls on the governments both nationally and locally. I’m not sure about other countries but the US could be doing so much more to curb this than they are. And the US is hands down one of the biggest culprits of the problem and have been for quite some time.

      However, I have to disagree with you about alternatives being as bad for climate change. I can only speak for the US on this but the US’s factory farming for livestock does more damage to the environment than transportation by a lot. It’s all about the energy and resources it takes to feed one cow versus the resources it takes to make corn or another crop. 

      Plants make oxygen as a waste product versus animals like us that make carbon. Plants just don’t contribute to the problem (in fact, they would make the problem better hence planting billions of trees to help curb the carbon levels) so unless there is another alternative for food besides animals and plants, I’m not entirely sure how it would make the problem worse. From my research livestock farming contributes 18% of human produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and that doesn’t include the land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, and deforestation this industry does. It’s not about cutting animal foods completely out. Just have a vegan lunch instead. That alone would make a difference.

      I also have to disagree that modern humans don’t have a solution because they do. For example, like I stated in my post, there is tech out there for pulling the carbon out of the atmosphere. There is all sorts of alternative energy sources that we could be using more and would be much cheaper than fossil fuels but we still aren’t using them. The reason for that comes from the money. Of course the rich who have been getting fat off coal and oil (and livestock for that matter) will deny the problem or try to stop these changes from happening. Even if that means they are just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

      And by this point, there is no “if” about it, climate change is happening and life on Earth is in serious danger. Just look up the numbers on species dying out every year. Mass extinction are occurring now that rival the dinosaur extinction. They have measured the oceans and sea levels are rising due to glaciers disappearing. The coral reefs are disappearing. These things are all tangible and able to be proven. And even if they are wrong it has nothing to do with us, at least we tried. Unless we find a way to leave Earth, when it becomes inhabitable, we are gone period.

      And just think about who is denying this. The rich like Trump who have money to lose if things change. Why would well renowned scientists be lying to us? What have they got to lose?

      Well I hope you have a change of heart about the futility of this idea but I’ve got a child to think about. What legacy are we leaving them?

      Take care, Tina

  • Incredible! Not only have you outlined what a half degree of global temperature would cause but you even identified how much time we have until the possibility becoming a reality…12 years! I had no idea that consuming less meat could help with greenhouse gas emissions! Looks like my ideas on shifting to more plant-based diets now have more incentive to be manifested! 

    • Hi Francesco! Thanks for taking the time to visit my post and talk with me about it.

      Unfortunately, this little known fact about greenhouse emissions and livestock farming has been around for at least 20 years but for some reason never gets much press. It was part of the reason I became a vegetarian back then. I’m am not one now but I’m planning to go mostly vegan since doing this research on climate change myself. I figure if I can make at least one meal a day vegan, that will make a difference.

      I’m glad that this post was helpful for you. If you are interested, I do plan to start posting vegan meals moving forward. I have lots of vegan snack recipes but nothing that would be a main course. 

      I hope to see you again! Take care, Tina

  • I really appreciate how you have taken a global problem, explained it well, and then narrowed it down to something that we as individuals could actually do to help. 

    I’m interested in the zero waste idea, but I acknowledge that it brings about a tension in my mind — decluttering my life involves throwing out a lot of stuff. I know part of the solution is to not have a lot of stuff in the first place that I would end up throwing away. Things come into the house from all different sources, but I could at least focus on what my part is in that. 

    One question I have, regarding food scraps, is — Do you know if putting food down a garbage disposal creates any problem? I know composting would be better. We have tried that, but have gotten away from it. I don’t even like to waste food in the first place, but if we have to throw some away, I tend to avoid the garbage disposal because we have our own septic tank (not a city service), and I don’t want to put too much into it. 

    • Hi Danette! 

      Thank you! I appreciate you visiting my post and taking the time to chat with me.

      There’s really no need to declutter unless you want to. Zero waste has more to do with single use items like plastic storage bags, grocery bags, disposable straws and cups, etc. or items that get replaced regularly but do not decompose like toothbrushes, sponges, etc. It’s not about how much stuff you have as much as what it is. That being said minimalism isn’t such a bad way to go either.

      I wouldn’t think that garbage disposals would be a good alternative to throwing it away. They aren’t designed to do that kind of work anyway so I wouldn’t recommend it. It sounds like you are doing your best with minimizing scraps as it is which is great. If you guys could get back into composting that would be the best route. Or maybe you have a neighbor who is composting perhaps and would gladly take scraps?

      I rent an apartment and there is no way I could do any kind of composting. Unfortunately, my city doesn’t offer composting service either so there is very little I can do there except to minimize food waste as much as I can.

      I am really glad that you found this post helpful! If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Thank you so much again!

      Tina

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