Earth is the only planet we know of that has the right conditions for human life to thrive. But rapid global warming is having a profound effect on these conditions and on life as we know it.
NASA data showed that 2017 was the second-hottest year ever recorded, as well as being the single-hottest year without an El Niño event. Global average temperatures are steadily rising, and satellite data shows that this warming effect is causing ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic to melt more rapidly.
Global Warming vs Climate Change
We hear a lot of talk about ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ often used interchangeably. The two terms are related, but they do have different meanings:
- Global warming refers to the rising temperatures across the planet since the early 20th Century. The average surface temperature of the Earth has risen by about 0.8°C since the mid-20th Century.
- Climate change refers to a wide range of global phenomena like rising sea levels, melting ice sheets, and extreme weather events. These phenomena are largely caused by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere.
What Causes Global Warming?
The biggest causes of global warming (and in turn, climate change) are:
- Burning fossil fuels (like oil or gas) for energy. These fuels release gases into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they trap heat from the sun and warm the planet. This is called the ‘Greenhouse Effect’.
- Forests absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They are like the planet’s lungs. As more large forests are being cut down to make way for human developments, carbon dioxide levels rise, and this ‘greenhouse gas’ contributes to global warming.
- Large-scale farms raising cows for meat or dairy purposes contribute to global warming, with almost 1.5-billion cows releasing methane gas into the atmosphere.
Scientists predict that global warming will only get worse, and this will have far-reaching effects on plants, animals and humans, as our environment undergoes significant changes. Extreme weather like storms, floods and droughts will also become more common.
How to Combat Global Warming
It might be hard to believe that just one person, or one family, can make a difference when it comes to global warming. Truth is, even the smallest changes can have a big effect. You can start by saving electricity, eating less meat, and lowering your carbon footprint one step at a time.
Practise these smart, sustainable habits in your home, to play your role in fighting global warming and climate change:
- Use energy-efficient LED lightbulbs in all your lights.
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
- Start a tradition of ‘Meat-Free Monday’, to reduce your reliance on farming, and enjoy more healthy vegetarian meals as a family.
- Turn off your computer or TV when you’re not using it.
- Unplug chargers when not in use; even chargers on standby use energy.
- Wait until you have a full load of clothes to wash before using the washing machine.
- Wash your laundry on a cold cycle.
- Don’t leave the tap running when brushing your teeth, washing the dishes or your hands.
- Switch off your geyser before you go out to work, or turn down the temperature of the geyser when it’s not in use.
- In hot weather, use a fan instead of air conditioning.
- In cold weather, bundle up and use a hot water bottle, instead of keeping an electric heater on all day.
- Take shorter showers, to save water and heating energy.
- Recycle household waste like paper, plastic and glass.
- Use public transport or a lift club to get to work, to cut down on vehicle pollution (and traffic).
Global warming is a serious problem, but it’s not too great to be overcome. If we all make a conscious effort to live a greener lifestyle, we can better protect the wellbeing of our planet, and give future generations a healthier start.
2017 was the hottest year on record without an El Niño, thanks to global warming. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/jan/02/2017-was-the-hottest-year-on-record-without-an-el-nino-thanks-to-global-warming
Things You Can Do to Reduce Global Warming. Retrieved from: http://environment.about.com/od/globalwarming/tp/globalwarmtips.htm
What is Climate Change? Retrieved from: https://www.natgeokids.com/za/discover/geography/general-geography/what-is-climate-change/#!/register
Meat-Free Mondays. Retrieved from: http://www.supportmfm.co.za/