Welcome to issue #2
Do you remember the #10yearchallenge that went viral in January? I bet I'm not the only one who saw the images of melting glaciers and had a stomach-churning feeling of imminent disaster. That's why I decided this issue HAD TO to be about global warming. But to discuss global warming, this newsletter is not enough. It is impossible to cover all the causes and consequences in such limited space. So I hope you take it as a wake-up call. Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.
— Lorena (@lorenacoronam)
Everything you need to know about climate change
Due mostly to the combustion of fossil fuels, the amount of carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years. As a result, an enhanced greenhouse effect is trapping more of the sun’s heat near the earth’s surface and gradually pushing the planet’s climate system into uncharted territory.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases always have been present in the atmosphere, keeping the earth hospitable to life by trapping heat. Yet, since the industrial revolution, emissions of these gases from human activity have accumulated steadily, trapping more heat and exacerbating the natural greenhouse effect.
As a result, global average temperatures have risen both on land and in the oceans, with observable impacts already occurring that predict increasingly severe changes in the future. Polar ice is melting. Glaciers around the globe are in retreat. Storms are increasing in intensity. Ecosystems around the world are already reacting, as plant and animal species struggle to adapt to a shifting climate. And new climate-related threats emerge. Climate change is happening now.
Climate change in numbers
- 17 of the 18 warmest years have occurred since 2000. 2016 was the warmest year on record.
- The United States is the second largest contributor to CO2 in our atmosphere, though it is home to just 4.4% of the world’s population. If everyone in the world lived the way people do in the U.S., it would take four Earths to provide enough resources for everyone.
- In 1910 Glacier National Park was home to more an estimated 150 glaciers. As of June 2017, that number is 25 and shrinking.
- The current pace of global average temperature rise puts approximately half of all plants and animals at risk of extinction.
- 195 countries signed the 2015 Paris Agreement, agreeing to limit global warming and adapt to climate change.
What causes climate change?
The primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are:
- Transportation. The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel.
- Electricity production. Approximately 68% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels.
- Industry. Greenhouse gas emissions from industry primarily come from burning fossil fuels for energy, as well as greenhouse gas emissions from certain chemical reactions as a result of the production of some goods from raw materials.
- Commercial and residential. Greenhouse gas emissions from businesses and homes arise primarily from fossil fuels burned for heat, the use of certain products that contain greenhouse gases, and the handling of waste.
- Agriculture. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils, and rice production.
- Land use and forestry. Land areas can act as a sink (absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere) or a source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The consequences of climate change
What is happening now
Scientists already have documented these impacts of climate change:
- Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland, and Arctic sea ice.
- Much of this melting ice contributes to sea-level rise. Global sea levels are rising 0.13 inches (3.2 millimetres) a year, and the rise is occurring at a faster rate in recent years.
- Rising temperatures are affecting wildlife and their habitats.
- As temperatures change, many species are on the move. Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have migrated farther north or to higher, cooler areas.
- Precipitation (rain and snowfall) has increased across the globe, on average. Yet some regions are experiencing more severe drought, increasing the risk of wildfires, lost crops, and drinking water shortages.
- Some species are thriving. Booming populations of bark beetles that feed on spruce and pine trees, for example, have devastated millions of forested acres in the U.S.
What is left to come
Other effects could take place later this century if warming continues. These include:
- Sea levels are expected to rise between 10 and 32 inches (26 and 82 centimetres) or higher by the end of the century.
- Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger. Floods and droughts will become more common. Large parts of the U.S., for example, face a higher risk of decades-long "megadroughts" by 2100.
- Less freshwater will be available since glaciers store about three-quarters of the world's freshwater.
- Some diseases will spread, such as mosquito-borne malaria.
- Ecosystems will continue to change: Some species will move farther north or become more successful; others, such as polar bears, won’t be able to adapt and could become extinct.
What can you do to help?
There is much more you can do to reduce your household carbon emissions. Find out more about your emissions and where you can best reduce them by using an online “carbon calculator.”
Green your commute
It’s easy: use your car less. Instead, use sustainable or public transportation. According to the CE, each litre of fuel that your car uses equals 2.5 kilos of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.
Use energy wisely and switch to “green power”
By getting more energy efficient, you’ll pollute less and save money. You can switch too to electricity generated by energy sources with low (or no) routine emissions of carbon dioxide. Contact your electricity provider to find out about the “green power” options available to you.
Make changes to your diet
Including the reduction of meat consumption (livestock is one of the biggest contaminators of the atmosphere), eat food that is local and in season (to avoid emissions from transportations and production methods) and avoid excessive packaging and processed foods as much as possible.
Put the 3R’s of sustainability into practice
Reduce (consume less), reuse and recycle.
Boycott the most environmentally damaging companies
According to a 2017 report in the Guardian, just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse emissions. Although it may be impossible to completely cut ties with every company that has a negative impact on the environment, boycotting the most environmentally damaging companies -and likewise, supporting the most sustainable ones- is one way to put your money where your mouth is.
Make demands from the government
We as the population have more power than we realize to demand measures from governments to raise global awareness of the global warming problem.
Presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, travelling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand.
This documentary is a living example of just how shockingly fast ice sheets are melting and plunging into our oceans.
There's lots of confusion around climate change, so read on to clear up myth from fact.
List of the top terms you need to know to understand the basic science and political sphere of climate change.
Current news and data streams about global warming and climate change from NASA.
16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg explains why, in August 2018, she walked out of school and organized a strike to raise awareness of global warming, protesting outside the Swedish parliament and grabbing the world's attention.
You can find many more here.
Uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all. 350's network extends to 188 countries.
An European knowledge and innovation community, working towards a prosperous, inclusive, climate-resilient society founded on a circular, zero-carbon economy.
Their slogan is “because the earth needs a good lawyer”. Earthjustice’s team of over 100 environmental lawyers -who are spread out across the United States- are fighting the horrific actions of the Trump administration at every turn. The organization represents every one of its clients free of charge, and is the leading environmental law group in the country.