Climate Change: Time to Act Now
During last month’s COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon…it is in sight and is hurtling towards us”. It is a dire warning for all of us. Yes indeed, climate change is very real, and it is the greatest threat humanity is facing right now.
Our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels to fuel our industries and automobiles and our Laissez-faire attitude towards deforestation and organized factory-farming have contributed to the colossal increase in greenhouse gases that in turn entrapped the atmospheric radiation. Suffice to say that the earth’s climate has drastically transformed due to man-made activities.
Despite many warnings, we are still burning huge quantities of fossil fuels without much control and care. Fossil fuel emissions are projected to increase by 0.06% in 2019 (per Global Carbon Project). According to The World Resources Institute’s (www.wri.org) calculations, about 350 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide have been released to the atmosphere over the past decade. We are failing to take concrete measures early enough to curb climate change, thus we are seeing a cumulative effect in the form of major disasters in a more and more aggressive manner.
Over the past few decades, the earth's climate took a turn from bad to worse due to the global warming effects. Inconceivable changes have occurred to the earth’s climate due to our neglect of the environment. Thus, we have been experiencing the fury of climate change in many different forms, from deep freeze to killer heatwaves and forest fires, to monstrous floods, storm surges, and torrential rains, and catastrophic cyclones and hurricanes. Climate change negatively impacts everyone, and everything in this world, from human, animal and plant lives and their survivability.
Climate change has taken the global center stage
Over the past few decades, scientists have been warning us about the phenomenon of global warming and its effects on the climate. The UN started to push the facts on climate change as early as 1991. The Framework Convention on Climate Change organized by the UN began in 1991, and in 1992 world leaders from 176 countries gathered in Rio de Janeiro and agreed to work together on climate change issues. Since then various initiatives and treaties came into effect to achieve lower emissions of greenhouse gases that choke the atmosphere.
United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is requesting every government to act on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Pew Research Center in a 2015 survey has found that people around the world are increasingly aware and concerned about climate change. According to a survey conducted globally, most people believe that climate change is real, and the effects are felt all around the world. It is becoming more evident that the effects of climate change are becoming more frequent, and profound. Another IPCC study found that the “major storms that until recently occurred once a century will, by 2050, happen on average once a year in many places, especially in the tropics.”
As we are realizing the seriousness of climate change, governments, businesses, and individual citizens are undertaking initiatives that will eventually bring about a positive impact on the climate change fight. A prime example is the UN-sponsored Paris Agreement to promote activities to mitigate global warming within the representative countries. India is a party to the Paris Agreement and is supporting many environmental initiatives. There is a big push to renewable energy investments as India, the world’s largest oil importer, wants to curtail fossil fuel consumption.
Canada has already drawn up a Climate Action Plan that includes all levels of government, and local communities to promote projects to fight climate change. This year the Canadian government has implemented a carbon tax that added 4.4 cents per liter of gasoline price. This is to discourage the consumption of fossil fuels.
India's National Action Plan on Climate Change is a comprehensive set of initiatives that include measures to promote alternate energy use and control the carbon output. There are also measures on waste management and recycling, water use efficiency, afforestation of degraded forestland. There are provisions to the development of climate-resilient crops and to further climate-related research.
Likewise, governments around the world are waking up to the challenges of climate change. Governments are positioned to do more to alleviate climate change by supporting legislation, providing funds, and promoting newer ideas that can energize companies and individuals to adopt alternative technologies to counter polluting emissions. Proactive strategies to protect our vital ecosystems, rivers, backwaters, wetlands, fjords, seas, flora, fauna, forests, etc., via appropriate legislation will help their continued survival. Preventing deforestation and encouraging re-forestation is another area where the government can take priority initiatives. Promoting alternate green energy sources is a way to sustain a pollution-free and healthy environment. Governments must empower corporations, and individuals to do their best in protecting the environment.
The Global CO2 Initiative at the University of Michigan is another example by an institution that aims to “identify and pursue commercially sustainable approaches” to reduce the carbon footprint. Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, is supporting two major initiatives, the Global Commission on Adaptation, and the Breakthrough Energy Europe, to build new technologies to counteract the impacts of climate change. These initiatives show that there are greater roles for organizations to play to curb climate change.
We can do more to fight climate change
Fighting climate change is everyone’s business. We still haven't got the 100% buy-in from all the concerned parties across the world. Climate change naysayers are adamant in their beliefs: they steadfastly see climate change as a natural phenomenon. No amount of scientific data or proof can negate their misgivings. The obstacles in finding common ground are mainly driven by the lobbying efforts of fossil fuel consortiums and other related big businesses.
After decades of inaction, at least this year, we are witnessing more activities that may bring into fruition certain concrete action plans to confront the ever-threatening climate crisis.
In addition to the national measures, we as individuals can begin conservation at home. We can use energy wisely by adapting new, low energy appliances, clean air technology products, energy-efficiency light bulbs, or even converting the electrical system to alternate/renewable energy sources. Green energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and biofuels may not be cost-effective yet, however, they are better for the environment. According to a recent United Nations report ‘consuming less meat and reducing food waste’ is good for people and the environment. Switching to homegrown, sustainable, organic products, consuming meatless, and not factory farmed products will help us and the environment. Utilizing public transit, participating in rideshare programs, choosing electric vehicles, etc. will further pave the way to reducing noxious emissions.
It is time to take climate change discussions out of boardrooms into the open. Let’s all, from politicians to pundits and professionals and laypeople, work together to find solutions to mitigate climate change. Climate change is here; however, if we chose to, we have the means to reverse it. Let’s rise to the challenges and follow Greta Thunberg’s lead. It is time for old and young to unite and transform our habits for a better environment.