Climate Change: The Biggest Threat We’ve Ever Faced

Climate Change: The Biggest Threat We’ve Ever Faced
We’re changing the climate at a rate never before seen, and that rate itself is increasing at an alarming pace. Recent studies are now forecasting a global average temperature rise of up to 4°C, a rise in sea levels of several meters, and the extinction of up to half of the animal species on the planet. This is the biggest threat our planet has ever faced.

The Canary is Dead

In the past, miners would carry canaries into coal mines to act as an early warning system for a buildup of toxic gas; when the canary started to show signs of ill health or died suddenly it meant the miners had to get out quickly. The arctic ecosystems are our global canary, and we’ve been ignoring their peril for over 50 years. Well, the canary is dead, and despite the valiant protests of a growing group of humans, the majority of us are still marching further into the mineshaft.

We’ve passed the tipping point; it’s looking like we’ll lose at least the northern polar cap. Besides causing the extinction of wild polar bears and other northern animals, this will have disastrous effects for the entire planet. The ocean’s temperatures are regulated by an internal flow that carries hot tropical waters north to be cooled by the polar ice caps, and then back down again. This is the action that causes much of our weather, and keeps northern landmasses such as Europe and Canada habitable. With the loss of the northern polar ice cap, life in these locations will become a lot less comfortable. Our energy needs will increase, our food and water resources will dwindle, and we have virtually no large scale plans in place to deal with these issues. A comprehensive climate treaty is desperately needed, in order to regulate and dramatically reduce our co2 emissions, and then begin removing excess co2 from the atmosphere to bring global levels down to an ideal level of 350ppm, the level it was at prior to the industrial revolution.

Reaching a collective agreement at the Copenhagen summit is absolutely essential to the survival of our species and the planet as we know it. There is precedent for success with this type of global agreement; the Montreal Protocol was instrumental to eliminating the widespread use of ozone-depleting ChloroFluoroCarbons (CFCs). The world economy didn’t collapse when we stopped using CFCs, and over time research has proven that the hole in the ozone layer has stopped expanding and has begun to repair itself. We can do the same thing with carbon dioxide, IF we can all reach an agreement about what needs to be done.

Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world; in fact, it is the only thing that ever has“.

Margaret Mead

But What Can I Do?

Many world leaders are becoming aware of the severity of the climate change problem, and the growing public demand that our leaders take action. You can help accelerate this action by letting your leaders know that they must take action. You can help by spreading the word about climate change to people you know, especially those who remain skeptical of it’s existence or believe it’s a problem for future generations. If each person did just a tiny bit to reduce their environmental impact, we CAN minimize the impact.

  • Replace a frequently used incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb. CFLs use up to 70% less energy than incandescent lights, while providing the same amount of light. Making the switch will save up to 300 pounds of carbon dioxide per light bulb. If each house in the USA did this with just one light, it would reduce the USA’s carbon emissions by 90 BILLION pounds.
  • Change your thermostat up by 2° in summer and down 2° in winter. This simple adjustment could save up to 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
  • Get your furnace ducts and filters cleaned. This simple boost in flow can improve efficiency enough to save up to 350 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
  • Choose Energy Star appliances. If every household in the USA replaced their older appliances with Energy Star rated units, it could eliminate 175 MILLION tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
  • Insulate your pipes and hot water tank. If you wrap your pipes in insulation, and wrap your hot water tank in a thermal blanket you could save up to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. This one simple action would eliminate 300 MILLION pounds of carbon emissions per year.
  • Eat local, eat organic, eat less meat, or adopt a vegetarian diet. Agriculture and livestock production accounts for 20% of our carbon emissions, as well as a massive negative impact on the surrounding environment and bodies of water. Eating local organic food with less meat will allow you to have a much smaller environmental impact and improve your health at the same time.

Action steps source:

This is just the beginning, when practices such as green building become the standard instead of the exception, we have a very real chance of making climate change a thing of the past. The important thing is that we TAKE ACTION NOW, because tomorrow it could be too late.

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Steve holds a degree in Environmental Engineering Technology from Humber College in Toronto, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. He currently lives in Victoria BC and works as a green building consultant specializing in residential projects.


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