To Those Who Don’t Believe In Climate Change,
Whether a friend, coworker, or family member sent this to you, I’m happy you’re here. Thank you so much for taking a few minutes out of your day to read this letter. Some call it climate change, others call it a climate emergency, and others call it a hoax. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the best term is, though I do know that it is real. Understanding climate change can be wildly overwhelming but I’m here to help. I hope you find the answers to your questions below.
What is climate change?
In April of this year, the Pew Research Center pulled together information on how 26 countries view climate change and seven other potential threats. Their research revealed that 13 out of the 26 countries (including Greece, South Korea, and Mexico) view it as the top threat to their livelihood.
Climate change is being discussed all over the world, but what does it really mean? Thanks to “eco podcaster” Kamea Chayne, the explanation is surprisingly straightforward: Greenhouse gases absorb heat and the more greenhouse gases there are in the atmosphere, the more heat from the sun will be trapped. We are burning fossil fuels at an alarming and unnatural rate. Fossil fuels release CO2, which is a greenhouse gas. Therefore, the more greenhouse gases we release, the warmer the earth will be. You might be thinking, doesn’t CO2 sometimes release naturally? How is man-made CO2 any different? While it may seem like carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide, there is a huge difference in the earth’s natural cycle and the greenhouse gases we have artificially produced. For millions of years, the earth’s atmosphere had a steady, natural cycle of CO2 which was released and caught, released and caught. Even when the globe experienced various ice ages, it was always part of a natural process. However, since the Industrial Revolution, humans have produced too much man made CO2 for the earth’s cycle to handle. A blog post from clean energy company Arcadia Power breaks this concept down well:
Picture the Earth as a 2-quart bowl. Now imagine it filled with exactly two quarts of water. The bowl can easily handle that 2 quarts. But now, take another cup of water and dump it into the bowl. Immediately, you see the problem: that cup of water is going to overflow the bowl.
Humans have created a huge imbalance in the number of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. NASA has a comprehensive graph on its website showing how the levels of carbon dioxide have risen consistently higher than ever before in history. According to NASA, as of this month, the concentration of CO2 is 412 parts per million which is the highest it’s been in 3 million years. This translates to the fact that 18 out of the 19 warmest years in history have occurred since 2001. This is not normal.
How does it affect humans?
When the earth’s atmosphere is out of whack there are chain reactions that occur throughout the world. These consequences are more than just the ice melting underneath polar bears in Antarctica, but hardships many people experience daily. Food prices spike because of droughts and other harsh conditions affecting farmland. Extreme heat during the summer creates various physical and mental illnesses at higher rates than ever before. Natural disasters occur more frequently and more intensely, leaving devastation in their wake. And air and water pollution are widespread, making it hard to breath easy or trust drinking water. Even if you are not yet personally experiencing these conditions, 11% of the earth’s population is. 800 million people are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change right now. As climate change worsens, National Geographic explains that the risk of contracting respiratory disease, dengue fever, Lyme disease and other illnesses rises. The truth is, the earth will be fine, it will heal itself eventually, but humans cannot survive these effects. Don’t we want to maintain the highest quality of life for the largest amount of people?
What can we do? What are we already doing about it?
While irreversible damage has already been done, there is something we can do to stop a total climate catastrophe. Even the Environmental Defense Fund has faith: “It’s not too late to slow the pace of climate change as long as we act today. With your help, we can attack this challenge.” The first step is arming yourself with information, and by reading this post you are already making progress. There are many resources on the internet to help you learn more about climate change, although NASA’s website seems to be the most comprehensive. For example, this video on greenhouse gases is a great way to solidify your understanding of the crisis. While it’s easy to focus on the doom and gloom of climate change, there are people already fighting against it!
1. Volunteer your time. There is a myriad of organizations globally, nationally, and locally doing work every day to make sure humans can stay on this earth. No matter where you live, there is no doubt a movement of individuals banding together to combat climate change.
2. Let your voice be heard. One way to personally help these fighters is to contact your government representative. If you live somewhere where the people elect the government officials, it’s important to let them know that action against climate change is important to citizens of their region, country, and the world. The same goes for voting with your dollars– let companies know that as a customer you value businesses which are making efforts towards combating climate change.
3. Donate to the cause. Global environmental organizations need donations to continue their work and contributing to them is another way to be a part of the positive change you wish to see in the world. Find a group near you or use the link above to find an organization which speaks to you and seems worth the investment.
4. Make small lifestyle changes. In your daily life, cutting down on the gas you burn is a fantastic start by carpooling, taking public transportation, or riding a bike are great instead of using more fossil fuels. And if you’d like information on clean energy as an alternative. It’s also highly effective to cut down the meat you consume regularly. This doesn’t mean instant vegetarianism, though according to The Huffington Post, “even a 10% reduction in meat consumption can have significant effects on personal health, the lives of 70 billion farm animals and global warming.”
Actions big, small, and in-between matter, though what is most important is for all of us to stick together. Together, we can do anything.
An Environmental Advocate
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance content creator and manager. Audrey is incredibly passionate about conscious fashion and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.