“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall
Is climate change real? Or, as Donald Trump, the forty-fifth president of the United States of America noted, is climate change a “hoax invented by China?” (Justin Worland, Time Magazine, 2019)
This question is one of the most frequently asked questions of Google and all other search engines. It is also currently one of the most hotly debated topics between different groups of people like scientists, experts, and leaders of some of the largest countries in the world.
As an aside, Worland notes in the same article mentioned above, that Trump has changed his mind. Climate change is no longer a hoax and his administration “will fight for a cleaner environment every day of [his] presidency.”
However, there is overwhelming evidence of the effects of climate change caused by global warming in the increased number of global severe weather events that occur regularly. These severe weather events include the increase in the number and severity of tropical storms, typhoons, and hurricanes. And they have caused the reduction of sea ice in the Arctic as a result of the one to two percent increase in the global oceans’ surface temperature.
Consequently, this question can be answered in the affirmative, and it is answered succinctly by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with the following statement:
“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
Additionally, this Intergovernmental Panel notes that the “current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is… greater than 95 percent probability… to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.”
Finally, News24.com columnist Melanie Verwoerd correctly notes during the latest round of challenges with electricity supply in South Africa “that the emissions from these coal power plants are contributing to climate change which causes these extreme weather events [(heavy rain and flash floods)]which cause the wet coal, which results in the coal power stations to grind to a halt.”
Thus, the question that begs is how do we halt the disastrous effects of climate change and save our planet?
Saving Mother Earth: The three imperatives
Suffice to say that there is no quick and easy answer to this question, let alone a workable solution to the current catastrophe. Thus, let’s look at the following three imperatives as an attempt to provide a viable solution to this problem.
The environment a primary concern, not a secondary interest
As Marco Lambertini notes in his article titled “Our planet is on the Brink. Here’s how we save it”, world leaders need to work together to save the planet through “strengthened cooperation.” There is no place for individualism and placing an individual country’s aims and goals above the collective whole.
The only solution has to be a collective one with everyone working together to save one planet. Simply stated, although there are many countries, each with its government and aims, there is only one planet. Therefore, the only successful response has to be a collective response with the same goal of saving the world.
Technology: a key driver of change
By now, most people would have heard of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And, we are currently in the middle of this period in humankind’s history. It is defined as a blurring of the lines between the physical, biological, and digital spheres.
Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, 3D-printing, genetic engineering, the Internet of Things, and robotics are some of the cutting-edge technologies driving change in the way we live. These changes can be both positive and negative to the environment. And, it is up to us to ensure that these technologies are used for the benefit of the environment and not to its detriment.
Sustainability: A key imperative
There are two elements to reversing the effects of climate change on the environment. The first is the collective will to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the second is the sustainability of this decision over the time that it takes to reverse the damage done.
Unfortunately, based on recent history, the collective will reduce our carbon footprint on the earth seems to be there. However, very few of the world’s governments seem to want to commit to fighting the effects of climate change in the long term.
Climate Change: What, Why, How?
Much has been written about climate change and its impact on the world as we know it. Some of it is on the side of what is commonly termed “fake news,” while other writings are based on reliable, evidence-based scientific facts.
Therefore, the questions that must be asked and answered are as follows:
- What do scientists say about climate change?
- How is climate change changing the world’s weather systems?
- And, what can we do to mitigate or reduce the negative impact of climate change on the world’s ecosystems?
At this juncture, it is vital to note that many studies published in academic peer-review journals indicate that 97% of all climate scientists agree on the definition of climate change as well as the consequences and causes of climate change.
Thus, by way of answering these questions, let’s consider each of these questions individually.
Climate change: A comprehensive definition
The climate.nasa.gov website notes that the phrases “climate change” and “global warming” are used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences in the meanings.
Global warming is the “long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.”
Climate change, on the other hand, is the “long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates.”
Global warming is one of the fundamental causes of climate change. However, climate change is not responsible for global warming.
What is the impact of climate change on the world’s weather systems?
As the definition mentioned above states, climate change is a shift in the world’s current climate or long-term weather patterns. The uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels is a primary causative of global warming.
2019 statistics show that the earth’s surface temperature was the third warmest in history at 0.65 degrees Celsius. The earth’s surface temperature heated up by 0.86 degrees Celsius in 2016, the highest in recorded history.
This increase in the earth’s surface temperate, albeit seemingly small, has had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences including a rise in global air temperatures, which in turn causes severe weather events like heatwaves, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, and tropical storms.
A current example of the rising temperatures is the melting of the sea ice in Nome, Alaska. Dog teams racing in the Iditarod, one of the world’s premier long-distance races, have been stranded for a couple of days about 123 miles from the finish line. This is due to the unseasonably warm weather, heavy snow, and the fact that heavy winds blew waves up onto the sea ice, causing the dangerous overflow. Overflow is where water flows over the frozen ice causing it to crack and melt. When people and animals try and move through the overflow, the underlying ice breaks further, resulting in hazardous conditions.
As an aside, three mushers and dog teams were rescued by the Alaskan National Guard because they ran into deep water on the sea ice just 22 miles from the finish line. The mushers were hypothermic and had crawled into their sleeping bags when they were picked up. The dogs were all healthy and were collected and taken separately to Nome, the town where the finish line is.
What can we do to reduce global warming?
This question has been asked and continues to be asked, and the concise answer is that we need to reduce greenhouse gas levels by preventing the burning of fossil fuels. However, there seems to be a lack of political will by some of the world’s biggest countries, such as the USA and China.
Until the world chooses to pay attention to and work hard at, the reduction of greenhouse gasses, we seem to be set on the current trajectory facing the consequences of rising temperatures and severe weather events that are linked to global warming.
Climate Change, The World Economic Forum, and Davos: Why Climate Change Matters
“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.” – Greta Thunberg
Climate-related incidents, including discussions, news, and commentary, make the headlines across the globe daily. Young climate activists like Greta Thunberg are standing up for what they believe is right. In summary, they believe that the time for action is now. And, if nothing is done to reduce the world’s fossil fuel emissions, the world will “burn”.
Additionally, the Fiftieth annual meeting of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) at Davos, Switzerland, has just concluded. The WEF was established in 1971 to bring the primary role players, including business leaders, politicians, and cultural leaders together to discuss global concerns that hamper global economic inclusion, climate change, and sustainable development. The goal or aim is the achievement of a cohesive and sustainable world.
According to Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, on its fiftieth birthday, the World Economic Forum is “releasing a new Davos manifesto, which states that companies should pay their fair share of taxes, show zero tolerance for corruption, uphold human rights throughout their global supply chains, and advocate for a competitive level playing field.” It is evident from the above statements that the WEF’s primary focus is economic or business-related. And, the participants gather together annually to discuss “everything economic.”
Climate change and the global economy
Thunberg spoke at the 2020 Davos gathering, highlighting that it is vital for the world to pay attention to the fact that the global climate crisis that the global netizens find themselves in. She continues to insist on a zero-carbon emissions global economy. In her opinion, humankind has passed its cut-off day to lower carbon emissions. She, on behalf of all children, placed a series of demands on the table, including ending all fossil fuel explorations, extractions, and subsidies.
The WEF has also placed its climate change objectives on the table. They have noted that the negative impact of climate change, especially global warming, “poses an urgent threat to economic progress, global food security, our natural systems, and individual livelihoods.“
Currently, nations across the globe are encountering the impact of global warming, especially that of rising ocean temperatures. An excellent example of the effects of increasing sea temperatures is what is known as the Indian Ocean Dipole.
In essence, it is a weather phenomenon that relates to the differences in sea temperatures in opposite parts of the Indian Ocean. Current warmer ocean temperatures next to East Africa have resulted in above-average rainfall, floods, landslides, and agricultural crop and local infrastructures in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, and South Sedan. Consequently, a famine warning has been issued for East Africa because of the severe flooding and above-average rains.
On the other side of the Indian Ocean, Australia has experienced and continues to experience, the worst bush fires in recorded history. The fires are so hot that they caused their own climate ecosystem with Pyrocumulonimbus thunderstorms. These storms are essentially dry thunderstorms with severe lightning strikes that start more fires. The worst fires hit the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
Additionally, these dry cumulonimbus clouds have also permitted the bushfire smoke to reach the stratosphere, which is about 16kms above the earth’s surface. This, in turn, has enabled the smoke to move around the world past New Zealand and South America. Scientists believe that the smoke from these fires will travel right across the globe and end up back in Australia.
Consequently, the WEF’s solution is to promote the private sector and government collaboration to build a global marketplace with the ability to ensure dramatic cuts in global emissions. Finally, the WEF’s global climate initiatives aim to contribute to a platform to help raise the aspiration to and expedite climate change action through “multi-stakeholder partnerships” across the entire globe.
Afforestation And Global Warming: How Is This Approach Playing Out Globally?
Over the last decade, global warming and climate change have dominated the talks at major events and conferences. Politicians and global leaders have spent thousands of dollars campaigning the idea of helping combat global warming. As such, afforestation and global warming have been two of the most talked-about topics, debating how the former could mitigate the latter.
Our Earth has constantly been trying to cope with the way humans use natural resources, clear forest lands, cut trees, and contaminate the air, land, and water. The industrial revolution, population bursts, and pollution create tons of permanent damage, resulting in global warming and climate change.
In such situations, afforestation has always been seen as a critical solution to global warming, a significant climate change reduction strategy even recommended by the UN. And there is tons of research out there that will tell you just that.
A forest’s role
The idea that planting trees will aid in the cooling of the planet makes logical sense, which is why this idea has grown popular among humans. Everyone has probably heard one person or the other calling the Amazon rainforest the “lungs” of the earth. We know that forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus acting as carbon sinks.
This would result in the partial offsetting of our own industrial and agricultural pollution. Forests are also known to cause a drop in temperature in their surroundings because of transpiration, as water travels from the roots to the leaves, evaporating into the surrounding air.
205 million tonnes of carbon
4.4 billion hectares is the estimated potential area of land cover in the coming decades, a number that far exceeds the current one. New research predicts that if the whole world were to contribute to a joined planting program, these new forests would have the potential to store more than 205 million tonnes of carbon.
This is about two-thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution. The research says that this places ecosystem restoration and afforestation as the most effective solution at our disposal to mitigate climate change. It ensures that global warming is reduced due to afforestation.
Tree planting is a solution to global warming that doesn’t require President Donald Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, and it definitely doesn’t demand scientists to come up with technological solutions to extract carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. It’s something that is available now all over the world.
It’s probably the cheapest solution possible, and it makes it easy for everyone to get involved, reinforcing a common goal for everyone to work toward. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) support people all around the world trying to make a difference. Everyone has the capability to make a tangible impact whether it be through donating money to NGOs like WWF or planting trees on their own. Everyone can make a difference.
Demand vs supply
In today’s day and age, products from trees and forests are in extremely high demand. Whether it be something as simple as a piece of paper or something like a forest-based face cleanser, people want it. However, the problem with this is that the rate at which trees naturally grow in forests is much slower than the rate at which trees in forests are being cut down for production.
This increased demand for tree products has put pressure on companies to obtain them by all necessary means, resulting in added stress on forests because of the endless deforestation. Afforestation is the leading effort in helping alleviate this burden on natural forests by providing a more reliable source of tree products.
This allows companies to use barren land to replant forests and use those trees to satisfy the needs of the people. Afforestation can be the key to leveling the demand from us and the supply from nature, ensuring that we still have a chance against global warming.
Supplying homes throughout nature
When forests diminish, the wildlife does too. Wild animals suffer the most when humans invade forests, destroying everything in their paths. Today, most of the places humans have built their apartments and stadiums used to be homes for wildlife.
As human activity continues to expand, the number of wildlife living in unprotected areas dwindles while the number of animals on the WWF’s list of endangered species increases. Unless drastic measures are set into motion, most of these animals will become extinct.
This is where afforestation jumps in the rescue the day. It will aide in ensuring that there will be enough forests for wildlife to thrive in. Instead of forcing animals out of their natural habitats, humans will have another source of trees to extract what they need without affecting the wildlife and encouraging the alleviation of global warming. For this reason, afforestation and global warming are largely connected, with one being one of the best solutions to the other.
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