From Al Gore to Donald Trump to Barack Obama, the war that pits man’s activities against global warming refuses to end. While some may argue that the significance of some of these activities remains invariable, their impact on the environment battles to be termed the same. Land, air, water, plants and animals are all scarred in their wake state those on this end of the see-saw.
It’s been noted that between the onset of civilization 10,000 years ago and 1900 the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) did not rise above 300 parts per million. Today it almost hits 400 parts per million. Still, some say that it is unproven that our activities as human beings carry any weight where climate change is concerned. And so, this battlefield of necessity versus environmental stewardship continues to be intrinsically challenging. Are there not eco-friendly ways of meeting society’s needs?
From Sasafrica’s 2009 Climate Tales to the 2015 Paris Climate Talks, this gap is bridged. As is one of the goals of the Paris Climate Talks, in 2009 convener Sasafrica in conjunction with African Youth Initiative on Climate Change had plenary sessions to discuss ways in which global warming can be mitigated. One eco-friendly way mentioned during Climate Tales is the use of biogas which is formed by anaerobic microorganisms; these microbes feed on carbohydrates and fats producing methane and carbon dioxides as metabolic waste products. Biogas is a renewable fuel.
For the Paris Climate Talks, the United Nations worked with the French government and 195 nations securing a legally binding global climate agreement to curb carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius and is partly legally binding and partly voluntary. Countries will be required to submit an emissions reduction target (Nationally Determined Contributions) and from 2018 onward will have to submit such a plan every five years. Developing countries such as Kenya will receive $100 billion a year from developed countries as climate finance starting in the year 2020.
The combustion of carbon-based fuels, that is, coal, oil and natural gas is one of the main causes of global warming. Such combustion results in the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2, water, vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are all green house gases that have harmful effects on ecosystems, biodiversity and livelihoods. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the burning of coal, oil and natural gas for electricity and heat production is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Deforestation in the name of clearing land for agriculture and industry is another man-made cause of global warming. Trees take in carbon dioxide during the process of photosynthesis. Less trees means that less carbon is stored. As trees are felled they release stored carbon into the atmosphere.
The production of CFCs for refrigeration and their extensive use as propellants in aerosols, their use as blowing agents in foam manufacture and in air conditioning is the third man made cause of climate change. CFCs which contain chlorine, fluorine and carbon are transported up into the stratosphere where they are broken down by ultraviolet radiation from the sun releasing free chlorine atoms which cause ozone depletion.
Fertilizer use and mining are the last man-made cause of global warming. The addition of fertilizer to soil releases nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxide contributes quite significantly to atmospheric warming. As mining takes place, methane which also contributes to atmospheric warming is released.
Some of the effects of climate change include unusual rainfall patterns, stronger hurricanes, severe heat waves, spreading of weeds, species extinction and loss of sea ice.
In his documentary on climate change titled An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore advises that we should recycle, create awareness and buy hybrid vehicles to keep climate change in check. While our individual carbon footprints seem irrelevant, it is the reduction of these that can go a long way toward stopping or at least reducing global warming. It is an emergency!
Given that the transportation sector is a leading producer of green house gases, Al Gore’s suggestion on using hybrid vehicles is sound rationale. Hybrid- electric vehicles combine the benefits of a gasoline engine and electric motors; a hybrid car can travel up to twice the distance that a typical gasoline-powered car goes. Other sound rationale involves making vehicles that are more fuel efficient. This means making cars that use less gasoline. Less gasoline burnt means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In mid-November of 2015, the city council of North Vancouver situated in British Columbia unanimously passed a by-law that states that climate change warning labels are mandatory on gas pumps. The message posted is that burning fossil fuels causes climate change. In addition while using cars is necessary, people can still regulate how they use them to lessen the effects of global warming. One can walk or cycle as opposed to driving. Where driving is unavoidable car pooling or sharing using the most fuel-efficient vehicle available works well. Using airplanes less is also advisable.
Being energy efficient in one’s home, work or school environment is another way to curb climate change. Switching off lights, using compact fluorescents, unplugging electronics when not in use, looking for labels that indicate energy saving when buying new appliances and knowing how much energy one consumes at home by having a home energy audit are all great ways of reducing our individual carbon footprint.
Where garbage dumping is concerned; garbage left in landfills produces methane. Composting is a good way of avoiding landfills and so is recycling. Eating low on the food chain by having one meat free meal for example will go toward reducing global warming given almost 20 percent of green house gas emissions arise from meat and dairy production.
Taxing any carbon producing activities is a good deterrent promoting energy-efficiency.
The World Climate Talks in Paris last December sought to make these methods of climate change workable through excellent leadership and innovation, technology, public private partnerships, finance and knowledge.
These talks hoped to lead and innovate policy recommendations to complement the global climate agreement, launch new and scale existing technologies for industries, cities, and countries for mitigation and adaptation and develop public and private partnerships and initiatives to complement Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). It further accelerated private investments and climate finance for and with the green climate fund and shared best practice, projects, and knowledge.
Perhaps the most affected livelihood where climate change is concerned is the farmer. With the Paris Agreement, a new jingle rings for a more prosperous climatic future for every farmer the world over.