This article explains the serious consequences of climate change in the coming years, the main measures that can be taken to alleviate it and the main scientific predictions about the phenomenon.
On March 15th, thousands of students from 60 countries went on strike to demand that world leaders adopt urgent measures to combat climate change. In this article, a scientist answers the questions posed by adolescents and young people about climate change, compiled by the Priestley International Center for Climate during a protest that took place in February.
How long will the planet last? I heard that 12 years…
The term of 12 years you have heard comes from a special report commissioned by the United Nations, which studies the effects of global warming limited to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels. At present, the world is 1 ° C warmer than at the end of the 19th century, which is the oldest period for which we have reliable measurements of temperature, just before the Industrial Revolution reached its apogee.
To prevent the global temperature from rising more than 1.5 ° C, mankind must reduce its carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions to about half of current levels by 2030, and to zero by 2050. date of 2030 -12 years since the report was published in October 2018- received a great deal of attention in the media.
If the 2030 deadline is breached, it will be very difficult to keep global warming below 1.5 ° C. That temperature does not necessarily imply a guarantee of safety, but the damage caused by climate change will be much more serious if the levels of warming are higher.
The current level of warming of 1 °C has already caused an increase in extreme weather events (such as heat waves or floods), resulting in food shortages and effects on food production. Entire species are already disappearing for reasons related to climate change.
With a warming of 2 °C or more, there will be a greater rise in sea level, extreme weather events will be more frequent and there will be detrimental effects on the food and water supply, which will make it very difficult to live in some areas. parts of the world.
The foreseeable consequence is that many people will have to leave their country and become climate refugees, and many millions of people around the world will be exposed to poverty. In addition, many species will be lost and virtually all corals will die.
Unfortunately, we are not doing what is necessary to keep the heating below 1.5 ° C, not even 2 ° C. If countries meet their current targets, temperatures will rise by around 3 ° C (or even more, if emissions continue to rise).
The planet itself will survive climate change caused by man. In fact, it has already suffered higher temperatures; It was millions of years ago, although at that time the world was very different. Human beings surely will not become extinct, but we will have to learn to adapt to a warmer world and all the problems that will entail. This means that we will have to cooperate and provide help and resources to vulnerable people.
What would be the most effective policy to end climate change?
No single policy will end climate change on its own, but a very effective strategy would be to quickly dispense with fossil fuels, such as coal and gasoline, which are used to create electricity and propel transport. There are different ways to achieve this goal, and it is important that leaders adopt policies aimed at creating good jobs and strengthening communities.
For example, governments must invest money in safe, reliable, efficient and affordable trains and buses, so that people can travel without using cars. Cities must be redesigned to facilitate travel on foot, by bicycle or by public transport. The houses must have good connections with the transport network, and must be built or modified to make more efficient use of energy, so that it is easier to keep them cool in summer and hot in winter.
International air travel also represents an increasingly large part of global emissions, and the governments of all the world must collaborate to respond to that problem.
Livestock farming – especially the production of meat and dairy products – also creates a surprisingly high amount of emissions. Thus, governments should encourage farmers to use sustainable methods. On the other hand, agriculture can produce deforestation. Since trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it is necessary to protect forests and plant new trees.
What can I do in my daily life to help the climate?
First, you can measure your ecological footprint by filling out this questionnaire from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The survey offers advice to help you and your family reduce your environmental impact. Studies have also highlighted the most important changes a person can make to help the climate. They are the following:
- Fly less.
- If you are old enough to drive, try to live without a car or share it with your family and friends.
- Opting for a vegetarian or vegan diet can reduce your ecological footprint (although it might be more effective to avoid wasting food than to stick to a strict diet).
- A controversial idea, but true: in the richest countries, having a child less is the measure with the greatest impact.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
In your daily life there are also small actions that can be useful. Turning off the heating or air conditioning at home and heating or cooling only the rooms you are using will save you money and reduce carbon emissions. Try to buy less clothes, plastics and appliances, because to make those items are consumed resources and energy.
Make your own items, borrow them, barter, buy second-hand or look for free products, and, as much as possible, recycle everything that can be reused. When you are old enough, you can also choose to deposit your money in an ethical bank and obtain electricity generated from 100% renewable energy.