Whether we like it or not, there is strong evidence that the way we live our lives is unsustainable and is causing irreversible implications on our planet in a growing problem better know as, Global Climate Change. While the science is nearly certainty we are guilty for these recent changes, many people still question this arguments validity. In reality, the consensus among more than 97% of modern scientists is that our climate is changing; causing more extreme weather conditions and abnormal weather patterns. It is perfectly normal to be skeptical of this science or even deny it, but before you turn a blind eye, I challenge you to dabble on these questions. What if we are impacting our climate? And if we are, how can we become more sustainable? I asked myself these questions after taking an ethics course on Global Climate Change. The issue itself is quite confusing and is often very misunderstood, so to better understand this issue we need to recognize what is occurring and how.
The basic science of Climate Change can be broken down into these different underlining issues: the Green House Effect and the Milankovitch cycles. The Greenhouse Effect, occurs when released gasses such as: methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide trap heat from the sun rays, warming the Earth’s surface. Naturally this effect is needed for survival and without this effect the Earth’s surface temperature would be extremely low, either at or near 0 degrees fahrenheit3. Another possible theory for recent Climate Change could be linked towards the Milankovitch cycles, which are natural variances of the Earth’s rotation around the sun. These cycles involve three different parts: (1) the tilt of the Earth, (2) the flatness of the Earth’s rotation and (3) the time period when the Earth is directly facing the sun. Within the past decade however; we have caused major variance in these effects that are naturally unattainable.
Anthropogenic Climate Change has occurred due to overconsumption and modern lifestyles. The releasing of emissions has caused an abundance of gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere, which have all been dramatically increasing since the turn of this decade and shall continue to heat the planet for hundreds of years to come. The burning of fossil fuels and the releasing of alike pollutants have been strongly correlated to changes in current temperatures causing: weather variance, extreme natural disasters and rising water levels. The issue of anthropogenic Climate Change or human caused Climate Change is one of the larger issues we will face this decade.
Yes, this is scary! But how can we all help? We can better measure our environmental impact through analyzing our own carbon footprint, which allows us to better understand the implications we carry on this planet and its natural ability to absorb harmful pollutants. A carbon footprint provides a measurable number that is a representative of your environmental impact. Knowing your output of carbon measured in tC (tones of carbon), allows you to compare yourself amongst others, giving you a chance for self-reflection and reduction. Your carbon output often reflects lifestyles or consumption choices we participate in. Indicators of emissions include activities like: the foods you eat, the amount of electricity you use, modes of transportation and travel frequency. Other factors such as if you eat organic foods or locally sourced foods, is also part of this calculation. Skeptical science on their home website provides a formula for CO2 emissions1. Levels of CO2 emissions can be estimated by using this calculation, (CO2 =population x energy intensity x carbon intensity x output per capita), which calculates the carbon footprint of the global population, so using a quiz often works better for individuals. This quiz is able to break down this calculation into a segmented list of components used to represent the carbon foot print number. To better understand my own carbon foot print and how it compares to the average US citizen, I went to the Earth Day Network and took their quiz to examine my own emissions and if you would like to examine your own footprint, you can click here2.
Ultimately, we should all be spending more time to fix what can be repaired now. After learning more about the effects of Global Climate Change, I immediately looked into different ways I could offset my environmental impact. Simple changes such as buying local foods, walking more and using less water can build up to huge amounts of saved emissions over a long period of time. I believe staying conscious and being actively willing to change, is the biggest step we can take moving forward. Choosing to live sustainably is more than a simple addition we make to our lives, but instead something that ignites important change.
There are many ways you can help and these changes are often very manageable. Among the many businesses currently in Spokane, Pantry Fuel can be set apart by its commitment to lower CO2 emissions by incorporating locally sourced food. Thunder’s Catch, is another business incorporating effort to make a positive impact through their own sustainability fishing efforts, whom we loved sourcing beautiful salmon this week for our menu. There is no easy way out of this issue, because the choice is ultimately up to us, so let’s make it happen. How can we make our future brighter? Our planet is an extraordinary place, so let’s treat it like one! “Climate Science Glossary.” Skeptical Science, www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php.
2 “Ecological Footprint Quiz.” Earth Day Network, www.earthday.org/take-action/footprint-calculator/#ecofootprint.