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CLIMATE CHANGE: CAN I MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Flash, I love you but we only have fourteen hours left to save the earth”.

What has this unforgeable quote from “Flash Gordon” [1], the 1980 film, to do with CC? Everything, as in a peculiar way it presaged the present climate change crisis and, further, its extravagant hyperbole has a depressingly large element of the truth for our modern world.

Most people, with noticeable exceptions, recognise that the world’s climate change is accelerating dramatically, which will impact catastrophically on all living creatures. “Yes I know this”, I hear you say, “but what can I do on my own when global action is required?” Despite the gloom of not enough global action and the usual political approach to difficult problems of “kicking the can down the road” and leaving the mess for future generations things are beginning to move, so don’t be too despondent you can do more than you might think and help to save help the world.

This blog sets out briefly the problem, some of what’s going on, simple actions you can undertake, as an individual, to reduce pour impact on CC, an a bit about carbon offsetting. For more detailed information on CC read Ecopush’s blog item June 2019, “Can I reduce my carbon footprint?

The Impact of Climate Change

CC is altering the fundamental fabric of the earth itself, the composition of the atmosphere and the oceans. Although we’ve have know about this for some time with the early science dating back over a century, it is the knowledge of the extent and speed of these changes which is new and frightening. Svante Arrhenius, the pioneering Swedish scientist in 1896, first estimated the scope of climate warming from widespread coal burning: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established by WHO in late 1988, after when the “greenhouse effect” enter the international spotlight. The first International Panel on Climate Change was established in 1990, and climate assessments was published every five or six years. The major reports of the last two years has had massive influence – (Wikipedia).

CC is and will continue to affect all living creatures, animals, insects plants and other organisms from the large to the minute: –

  • Changing climate belts: temperatures and rainfall; up, down, less and more, and more frequent major events;
  • Increasing the amounts of CO2, greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollution;
  • More extreme weather: hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons and thunder storms;
  • Retreat of ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, Greenland (more ice mass has been lost this year since records began), and glaciers world-wide;
  • Rising sea levels, altering of salinity;
  • Changing habitats for all living creatures, animals and plants.

International Action – Ecopush’s blog item June 2019

The 2016 Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5°C, which would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change. Also included were: –

  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
  • To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge.
  • For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

UK Action

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change 2018 seeks progress in the reduction of UK emissions of greenhouse gases within 7 main areas: Economy-wide progress, Power, Buildings, Industry, Transport, Agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry, Waste, and Fluorinated gases – (F-gases). It has 4 clear messages: –

  1. Support the simple, low-cost options;
  2. Commit to effective regulation and strict enforcement;
  3. End the chopping and changing of policy
  4. Act now to keep long-term options open

Individual Action

Greta Thunberg the 16 year old climate activist has spend two-weeks crossing the Atlantic on a solar-powered yacht attend “Climate Week NYC”, which will take place from September 23 to 29. The event is run in coordination with the United Nations and the City of New York, and seeks to continue to grow as the time and place for the world to showcase climate action and discuss how to do more. The number of events at this years Climate Week run by The Climate Change Group, [2] the international non-profit organisation focused on accelerating climate action, are growing and are set to far exceed the 150 events of 2018.

In April, activists around the world took to the streets to demand that global leadership take climate change seriously. Protesters near Manhattan’s City Hall; traffic blocked in Germany; streets in the Hague’s ’doused with fake blood. In London, Extermination Rebellion activists have glued themselves to trains, attached themselves to fences, and blocked the city’s busiest traffic routes and in Bristol and Manchester. This disruption aims to get the U.K. government to declare a climate emergency, reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and form a Citizen’s Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice. On May 1 2019, the House of Commons declared the world’s first ever “climate emergency.” The Government has since launched its Strategy to cut emissions to zero by 2050, but nothing on the policies and funding to achieve this goal.

Carbon footprint and carbon offsetting

Your carbon footprint is defined by the total amount of CO2 and greenhouse gases that you produced, directly and indirectly, by your activities. It is usually expressed in equivalent tonnes of CO2 generated by your lifestyle, heating, travelling by plane or car particularly using fossil fuels, the food you eat, the clothes you ware, the water you use and how you dispose of your waste.

Carbon offsetting is a way to compensate for your emissions of CO2 or other greenhouse gases, measured in tonnes, by funding a saving elsewhere. A tree is estimated to remove about 7 tonnes of CO2 and, therefore, about 5 billion trees per year need to be planted to meet current emission levels.

There are two markets for carbon offsets. In the larger, international compliance market, companies, governments, or other entities buy carbon offsets to comply with caps on the total amount of CO2 emitted. In the much smaller, voluntary market, individuals, companies, or governments purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources. For example, an individual might purchase carbon offsets to compensate for emissions caused by personal air travel. Carbon offset vendors offer direct purchase of offsets, often offering other services such as designating a carbon offset project to support or measuring a purchaser’s carbon footprint – (Wikipedia).

Each offset, equal to one tonne of CO2, sells for about £9 to £11 per credit, depending on market rates. According to the Guardian Newspaper, a typical British family would pay around £45 to neutralise a year’s worth of gas and electricity use, while a return flight from London to San Francisco would clock in at around £20 per ticket. Drive 15,000 miles per year, fly 50,000 miles and stay in hotels four weeks a year, your carbon emissions, according to the Mercy Corps (a global team of humanitarians), come to more than 16 tonnes, which could be offset with a donation of £80, enough to purchase 32 trees.

Ten simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint

  • Eat less meat (the single most effective action you can take to combat climate change is to stop eating meat);
  • Reduce food waste and compost if possible;
  • Reduce the temperature of your heating;
  • Drive less;
  • Fly less;
  • Use sustainable transport – walk and cycle more;
  • Don’t buy “Fast Fashion”;
  • Plant a garden / trees;
  • Eat local (and organic).
  • More sustainable use and charging of your devices.

The best way to reduce your carbon footprint permanently is perhaps to adopt the Mike Berners-Lee “10-tonne lifestyle” as set out on Ecopush’s blog “Can I Reduce My Carbon Footprint?”, June 2019.

Changing one’s lifestyle is not easy, but it is now essential that we give it a go, and you don’t have to do everything at once. Try flying or driving a little less and compensate against these by reducing your carbon footprint more in other areas. Flash Gordon did save the earth and liberated the Universe from the clutches of the evil Emperor Ming. By taking small, individual steps getting bigger, we can do the same and make a real difference.

1. The film Flash Gordon (1980) released by Universal Studios.

2. The Climate Change Group.

Ecopush’s next blog will discuss the interrelated topic of sustainable development which combined with climate change mitigation seeks to “save the earth” and its environment. At Ecopush ecopush blog, we really value your views and ideas on climate change and reducing peoples’ carbon footprint: so contact us and let us know what you think.

Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius from Pexels

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