It’s been almost a year since the world watched in horror as California burned. The state was on fire for months, with the worst damage happening in November. The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most damaging wildfire in California history, and the Woolsey Fire immediately followed it. Together, they killed at least 85 people and destroyed more than 19,000 homes. They also burned an area bigger than the combined size of Boston and New York City.
Now, as we approach the one-year anniversary of those fires, it’s worth asking ourselves how much progress we’ve made to prevent climate change.
A further look into Climate Change
The phrase “climate change” covers a broad spectrum of environmental deterioration that is thought to be caused by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), including alterations in precipitation, sea level changes, global warming, and more extreme weather events.
Climate change has been connected with damaging weather events such as more frequent and intense floods, downpours, hurricanes, and winter storms. Rising sea level has begun to affect coasts owing to increasing floods and erosion, in addition to expanding ocean waters caused by rising temperatures melting polar ice caps. The main source of modern climate change is human activity, such as the usage of fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, and oil. When these materials are burned, greenhouse gases are released into the Earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere’s temperature rises as a result of these gases’ ability to capture heat from the sun’s rays.
Fact #1: Climate change is happening right now.
Currently, people are experiencing the consequences of human-caused climate change all around the world. Temperatures are rising, both across the globe and in the United States. Glaciers and sea ice are melting, and oceans are warming and becoming more acidic. Downpours are getting heavier, and wildfires and other extreme weather events are becoming more common. These observed changes are consistent with predictions of how climate change would unfold.
Fact #2: Climate change is caused by human activity.
Over the past 150 years or so, people have been burning an ever-increasing amount of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—to power their homes, businesses and factories. The atmosphere of the Earth is filled with so-called greenhouse gases as a result of burning fossil fuels. Greenhouse gases from the millions of automobiles we have spewed into the atmosphere destroy it. Next in line to human activity as a contributor to climate change are vehicle emissions. Additionally, a lot of greenhouse gases are released annually from manufacturing facilities. In the making of products that we frequently use, it is unavoidable. These are just a few reasons humans are blamed for contributing to climate change.
Fact #3: Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change
Since preindustrial times, carbon dioxide (CO2), which makes up roughly two-thirds of all greenhouse gases released by human activities, has been largely to blame for global warming. As more fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas are burned for the production of power and as fuel for transportation, it continues to be released at ever-increasing rates. In 2018 alone, humans emitted an estimated 42 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere—a new record high! Reducing emissions will require a fundamental transformation of our energy systems away from fossil fuels toward cleaner renewable sources like solar power and wind energy.
How Bad is Climate Change?
In order to answer that question, we need first to understand how bad climate change really is. And make no mistake – it is terrible. Climate change is a global problem that is already causing extreme weather events like floods, droughts, and heat waves all over the world. It is also responsible for making natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires more frequent and intense.
What’s more, climate change is not just an environmental problem but a social justice issue. This is due to the fact that its effects are not evenly distributed. The people who are most harmed by climate change are those who can least afford it: the poor, the elderly, children, and minorities. In other words, those who have made the least contribution to climate change are disproportionately harmed by its repercussions.
So What Are We Doing About It?
The United States has made some progress in fighting climate change. For example, we’ve seen an increase in renewable energy use, with solar power capacity increasing by 17 times since 2008. In addition, electric vehicles are becoming more popular, with sales rising by 80% between 2014 and 2017. Finally, cities all over the country are beginning to implement policies aimed at reducing emissions and promoting sustainability.
However, despite this progress, we are still not doing nearly enough to prevent climate change. In order to avert catastrophe, we need to make much deeper cuts in our emissions. And that means making some tough choices about how we live our lives and run our businesses. Are we willing to do that? Only time will tell.
While the issues that climate change causes are significant now, their effects on future generations—who will be affected by present decisions or inaction—are much more significant. Rising temperatures and changes in weather patterns result in more extreme weather events, from hurricanes and floods to droughts and wildfires. And as sea levels continue to rise, coastal communities are increasingly at risk of devastating storms and flooding. The good news is that we can still do something to help alleviate the consequences of climate change. By working to reduce our carbon emissions, we can help to slow the warming of the planet. Additionally, by improving our agricultural practice, we may strengthen the resistance of our food supply to environmental change. With a coordinated effort, we can make a difference in the battle against climate change.
Climate change is a natural and present danger that we are not doing nearly enough to prevent. If we want to avert catastrophe, we must make tough choices about how we live and run our businesses. Are we willing to do that? Only time will tell.