Climate change is not a recent topic. People have been talking about climate change since the early 19th century when people suspected natural phenomena such as the Ice Age and the greenhouse effect. It has recently become a very concerning issue because of the rapid rise in greenhouse gasses.
One of the most adverse effects of climate change is water scarcity. Water is a necessity and one can day if he/she does not drink water for a couple of days. It is also needed for basic tasks such as showering, cooking, and cleaning. Because of the constant rise in global temperatures, icebergs are melting and freshwater sources are drying. A recent example of this issue is the severe water shortage several places in the US are facing. The west coast is facing a severe drought. Several water suppliers such as the Hoover Dam, Colorado River, and many water sources in Utah are facing a severe shortage. On May 28, the mayor of Salt Lake City declared a stage 2 drought. These examples raise a big issue on climate change and how it will adversely affect our future.
Many think the pandemic helped significantly in terms of tackling climate change, but this is not entirely true. Carbon emissions fell 7% last year, but this didn’t have a significant impact on climate change overall.
According to Oksana Tarasova, a scientist at The Conservatory and Botanical Garden of Geneva, the dip in emissions is not significant in terms of climate change. She says that “the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as well as the other key greenhouse gases, like methane and nitrous oxide, are all going up. So we haven’t seen any decrease in concentration.
“So if you look at the curve it goes up and up and up, and 2019, and 2020 is not an exception, it still goes up.”
Deforestation is another big issue that contributes to climate change. Deforestation is the act of clearing a large number of trees. Deforestation happens to industrialize cities and build more homes and facilities. These facilities need to be built to sustain the exponentially increasing population. The rising population indirectly contributes to climate change because if more people need to be sustained then more of Earth’s natural resources need to be used. Another cause of deforestation is wildfires. Wildfires destroy millions of trees each year. Wildfires can occur because of human accidents or they can occur naturally because of extreme heat. Trees consume a big portion of carbon dioxide produced by humans, and by losing trees we are increasing carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere. Trees also store carbon dioxide and by cutting and burning trees, all the emissions go into the air. This worsens global warming.
The Rise of Infectious Diseases
Another hidden effect of climate change is the rise in infectious diseases. As we have seen in the past year COVID-19 has spread all over the world. According to ProPublica, climate change is contributing to skyrocketing rates of infectious disease.
Over the decades, the number of infectious diseases and respiratory illnesses such as coronavirus have skyrocketed. There are thousands of strains of coronavirus that await an opportunity to infect people. Loss in biodiversity, destruction of wildland, and increase in global temperatures force wildlife closer to people which poses a greater risk of infectious diseases and global pandemics.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many scientists didn’t correlate climate change and the spreading of diseases, but now many scientists have done the research and thoroughly analyzed past research papers. In 1999, Panama saw an increase in temperatures and rainfall. This resulted in an explosion of the rat population. Naturally, the number of viruses the rats carry increased, and the chance of getting infected also increased. That same year a fatal lung disease carried by rats and mice engulfed Panama. Almost three-quarters of infectious diseases are carried by animals. If animals are losing their homes due to climate change, this will directly impact humans.
Climate change is a very serious issue and it needs to be constantly addressed and not forgotten. One cannot think about the earth on Earth Day and then forget about it for the rest of the year. One can only make so much impact towards a greener earth, but changing yourself is more than enough. Ways to save the planet from climate change is to protect its natural and scarce resources. For example, taking short showers, using fewer plastic water bottles, reusing plastic utensils if hygienic, and overall being less wasteful are all ways to keep the earth green.
Buying a Tesla might not be the solution
Likewise, many may wholeheartedly believe that electric vehicles(EVs) are better for the environment. But the real answer might not be so black and white. While it is true that EV’s are cleaner in terms of emissions, the real environmental cost of building a car includes both building and fueling it.
This, in turn, factors in the emissions and environmental costs related to oil drilling for gasoline-powered cars, and mining for other metals such as nickel and cobalt that are vital to EV batteries.
Research from the University of Toronto showed that before rolling off the assembly lines, EVs such as Tesla’s highly popular Model 3 generate 65% more emissions than other cards such as the Toyota RAV4.
These values are mainly due in part to the metals needed for Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries. Moving on to when these cars are on the road, the RAV4 starts to lead ahead in terms of total emissions, as a result of carbon emissions from crude oil, the base component in gasoline. While Tesla does recharge with electricity and creates emissions, the United State’s power grid is slowly becoming cleaner and cleaner every year.
“As time goes on, Tesla releases 34% of the emissions related to the gasoline-powered RAV4. “
An important factor is where these cars are used, for example, the Pacific Northwest has an abundance of hydropower, hence creating cheaper, cleaner, electricity as compared to an oil-powered state such as Texas.
At the typical lifespan of both vehicles, which is about 200,000 miles, the RAV4 has created an average of 78 tons of greenhouse gasses, while the Tesla has created 36 tons.
As a whole, reducing carbon emissions is no easy task, but as technology becomes more advanced and renewable energy becomes more efficient and widespread, it is abundantly clear that EVs will be the future of transportation.
What does this mean on an international level, however? Various climate change policies such as the Paris Agreement, set goals for total vehicle emissions. For the United States specifically, this number is at 39 gigatons of emissions between 2019 and 2050. Restricting our emissions to fit within this value will serve to prevent the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Ultimately the reduction of gasoline is the key solution to keeping our emissions beneath the 39 gigaton limit, the rise of EVs and cleaner electricity will help, but not enough to lower the global average temperature.
Ultimately it will be the government that plays the largest role in preventing the rise of emissions. States such as California have taken very extreme measures, banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars, demanding that all cars sold after 2035 must be either electric or hybrid. Legislation such as this will ultimately serve to have the largest impact in lowering global emissions, albeit at the cost of millions of pounds of extra minerals that will be mined which will be mined to build said cars.
While the rise of renewable energy and EVs may help reduce the global emissions level, it is an action that needs to happen as soon as possible. The WMO’s report on the State of Global Climate 2020, revealed just how desperate the situation is becoming. 2020, as expected, was a year filled with unprecedented change in terms of extreme weather and climate disasters across the globe. These were mainly caused by various changes in socio-economic development in third world countries, migration and displacement, food security, and other factors. Furthermore, the report goes on to say that although there was a global cooling event, the global temperature remained 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
To combat the further worsening of global temperatures, global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030, and the world must reach net zero by 2050.
There’s still hope
However, countries are taking action against climate change. At the UN climate change negotiations, which will take place in Glasgow this November, various legislative movements will be pushed to align current COVID-19 recovery funds with climate change plans such as the Paris Agreement. Subsidies will be shifted for renewable energy rather than harmful fossil fuels, and developing countries will receive financial aid to shift to more renewable energy sources.