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When someone starts talking about climate change, the conversation can get political fairly quickly. But for billions of people across the world, it isn’t political in the slightest. From the historic droughts limiting access to drinking water, to the abnormal temperatures and flooding that affect millions of farm communities, climate change continues to impact the lives of people from all walks of life.

It isn’t political for scientists either, who for years have been turning to a growing amount of evidence supporting the claim that the Earth’s climate is changing due to human activity, and that we’re harming ourselves along with the environment in the process.

First: Why we know it’s happening
One of the most powerful pieces of evidence comes from an unlikely source: glacial ice. By taking ice samples from deep within the glacial ice of Antarctica, scientists can analyze compounds trapped in the ice to see what the Earth’s atmosphere consisted of hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Global Warming

What they have found is that the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that traps heat on the planet – remained relatively consistent for hundreds of thousands of years, up until the Industrial Revolution. By the mid-to-late nineteenth century, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels started to rise dramatically. By the 1950s, and coinciding with our increased use of fossil fuels, there was more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there had ever been in over 600,000 years. Today it’s even higher, and will continue to rise until we begin to seriously start limiting pollution and our use of fossil fuels.

This is just one of the many pieces of evidence that exist today. For even more, check out NASA’s extensive collection of evidence at http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

How are humans being affected?
As if the scientific evidence weren’t enough, there are millions of people across the world being directly impacted by the effects climate change has had on the environment. Irregular weather patterns, strange temperature fluctuations, and more frequent extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts have increasingly Global Warmingdevastated millions of people’s livelihoods.

In northwest Canada, for example, there rests a small population of Inuit people who for years have depended on the ice-covered sea to travel, hunt, and gather supplies. In recent years, the ice has not started to freeze until late January, limiting the time available to hunt and collect food for the community.  Above average temperatures have started to melt glacier ice, affect annual levels of snowfall, and greatly alter the surrounding terrain. 

For some regions of the world, the terrain is actually disappearing altogether. The small nation of Kiribati, located on a 300-square-mile island between Australia and Hawaii, is at risk of becoming completely submerged under rising sea levels. It is such a real threat that the 100,000 island inhabitants may have to be relocated to Fiji. Global Warming

The changing climate has also seriously affected those living in poverty. There are nearly one billion impoverished people living on $1.25 or less every day across the globe, according to The World Bank. Many of these impoverished people are dependent on agriculture, one of the most impacted industries by the effects of climate change. Crops are devastated by drought, livestock can’t graze or be fed properly, sources of water dry up, and the risk of famine skyrockets. Food scarcity can also lead to rising food prices that burden impoverished regions even further, many of which are already undernourished and at increased risk of disease.Global Warming

We are also seeing the obvious signs of climate change here in the United States. California’s recent and ongoing historic drought is probably the most readily identifiable example. Citing a study lead by Stanford University researchers, a September 2014 article by the Stanford Report notes that “a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean that diverted storms away from California was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.” This unprecedented drought has reverberated throughout California’s agricultural industry (among many others), with the potential to cost the state billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs.

As if the economic implications were not enough, climate change may also be directly affecting our health. When we pollute the air, we increase the concentration of ground-level ozone that we are exposed to. This forms when pollutants and other airborne compounds react in the sunlight, forming smog. In 2014, the White House even released a report, The Health Impacts of Global WamingClimate Change On Americans, detailing a noticeable increase in respiratory problems (like asthma attacks) due to increased ground-level ozone levels and other airborne pollutants. 

The problem is even more severe in countries like China, where cities like Linfen and Beijing are so heavily polluted that citizens have to use air purifiers in their homes and resort to wearing protective face masks when going outdoors.

Looking Forward
From the South African farmer to the Californian family of four with limited access to water, climate change has become a very real part of many people’s lives across the world. The good news is that individual people, non-profit organizations, government entities and international platforms are beginning to realize the need for immediate action if we hope to limit any further damage.

Industrial carbon emissions, for example, are becoming increasingly scrutinized and regulated by governmental bodies like the EPA; organizations like 350.org are helping individuals organize campaigns and initiatives in their countries to raise climate change awareness; and engineers and scientists are coming up with creative, sometimes insane sounding ways to help mitigate climate change’s effects on the planet, like by building giant mirrors in space to redirect sunlight away from Earth.

 Global Warming

The United Nations has also stepped up carbon reduction efforts. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, is a treaty that obligates member-states of the UN to reduce their nation’s carbon emissions; the current “commitment period” extends from 2013 to 2020.

You too can help with a bit of planning and a willingness to make some small, easy changes in your life. When shopping for appliances, big or small, look for brands with an ENERGY STAR certification. Avoid driving everywhere if you can help it, and take a walk or bike ride whenever possible. If you have to use your car, drive smarter and more efficiently by keeping your tires fully inflated and by easing up on the gas and brake pedals – if you are fast to accelerate or quick to slam on the brakes, your car is wasting a lot of gas. Recent droughts have also greatly limited the availability of water in many parts of the world, so conserve water whenever possible. For even more ways to lower your carbon footprint, check out the EPA’s list of tips and suggestions at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/.

While a lot of environmental damage has already been done, an international effort to stop the effects of climate change is already underway. We all need to do our part by becoming conscious of its effects all across the globe, educating ourselves, raising awareness, and making small adjustments to our lives. We’re in this together, and together we can help reshape the world.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 169 - September 2018
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