The need to pay attention to our impact on the environment was highlighted as far back as the early- to mid-1700s by the French philosopher and writer Voltaire. His quotation mentioned above: “Men argue. Nature acts” is the epitome of the harsh reality of the impact of global warming on the world’s climate.
Climate change: Conferences and resolutions
The world’s first climate change conference was organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and it was held in 1979 in Geneva, Switzerland. The main topic and raison d’etre for the conference was to discuss “global warming in addition to climate research and forecasting.”
Fast forward to 2018, the most recent climate change conference held in Katowice, Poland and one of the main topics of discussion was still climate change as a result of global warming. This conference focused on the importance of reducing, and ways to reduce CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions to reduce the earth’s temperature via the reduction of the greenhouse effect.
Thus, at this juncture, it is fascinating and critical to note that, in real terms, nothing much has changed between 1979 and 2018. The situation has probably worsened because, in 2017, Donald Trump, forty-fifth president of the USA and one of the world’s largest economies withdrew the USA from the Paris Accord that was drawn up after the 2016 conference.
As a result, it might be logical to conclude that preventing climate change as a result of global warming is not an essential part of the world’s governments. However, this conclusion and viewpoint are juxtaposed 180 degrees to the truth.
Not only is it vital that climate change is managed at a national level of all countries in the world, but the following statement made by Sir David Attenborough at the 2016 conference is an accurate representation of the real challenges facing the earth:
“Right now, we are facing a [human-made disaster] of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
Global warming and the greenhouse effect: The importance of paying attention to the reduction of the greenhouse effect
Succinctly stated, the greenhouse effect is where the heat from the sun’s rays are trapped between the earth and the atmosphere due to high levels of air pollution that do not allow the heat to escape back into the atmosphere.
Therefore, a simplistic conclusion that must be drawn from this statement is that if we do not reduce global carbon emissions, the greenhouse effect will increase exponentially until everything on the earth’s surface cannot stand the heat and combusts, or it dries up and dies, destroyed through dehydration or the loss of body water.
Reducing the greenhouse effect
One of the primary ways to reduce the greenhouse effect is to reduce humankind’s carbon footprint.
What does this mean?
In essence, reducing a carbon footprint means decreasing the percentage of carbon-based gasses into the atmosphere at any given moment. The largest source of carbon-based gasses is caused by the burning of fossil fuels like coal for transportation, heat, and electricity generation.
To further our understanding and insight into the origin of greenhouse gasses, let’s look at the three reasons for burning fossil-fuels individually:
Essentially, the transportation sector is based on the need to transport people, agricultural goods, and manufactured products over a given distance. It does not matter what the distance is. Coal and oil are the primary fossil fuels that are converted into combustible substances like petroleum gas and diesel.
Vehicular transport (with the notable exception of the bicycle) is all driven by a by-product of one of the fossil fuels. And, consequentially, carbon-based emissions are released into the earth’s atmosphere.
According to the American Gas Association, natural gas is one of the most popular consumer-driven central heating mechanisms. In summary, a furnace is installed in a building, natural gas is piped into the furnace which is used to heat air or water, and this hot air or water is forced along pipes or ducts into the building to heat the entire building simultaneously.
Coal-fired furnaces are one of the world’s most popular way to generate electricity. It is relatively cheap but has one of the highest carbon emission levels, especially when dirty coal is used to generate electricity.
Unfortunately, the cost of shutting down these furnaces and moving across to renewable energy-generation sources like solar power can be prohibitive especially for emerging market countries like countries across Africa, South America, and Asia. Therefore, many countries, including the USA, find it more straightforward and more cost-effective in the short-term to use coal as a primary source to generate electricity.
From the above discourse, it is clear that global governments, no matter what accords and agreements they sign at the biannual world climate change conferences, do not necessarily have the collective willpower to change from using fossil fuels to renewable energy resources like the sun.
Therefore, finally, global citizens should consider to what extent they are going to get involved in highlighting the absolute necessity of reducing greenhouse gasses immediately. This is not a matter that can be ignored as the future wellbeing (and existence) of the earth is at risk.