Since today is World Environment Day we’re going for it: climate change. The hot button topic du jour. Some believe it’s beckoning the end of human existence while others don’t acknowledge it’s real. It has become such a political issue, it’s hard to know what’s actually true. Is the world really ending, or is it not? What is true and what isn’t? Does it even matter?

We’ve decided to get in the mix but by taking an utterly non-political dive into the topic. In this article, we’ll define climate change, what it is, and its effect. We’ll touch on why people doubt its existence, and we’ll provide practical solutions. We’re not speaking to scientists or people already well-versed on the issue. We’re writing this article for those of us who’ve heard a lot about climate change and want a basic understanding of what it is.

Let’s go!

What is climate change

Climate change refers to the group of weather-related changes happening on the planet.

The reason that climate change is an issue today is that scientists are concerned that the natural fluctuations in the climate are occurring more rapidly when compared to the past,  and it is thought to be because of human behavior. According to these scientists, if we don’t pull back on this behavior, it will have severe consequences on the planet’s stability. We’ll address this human behavior is further down.

Climate change is not just global warming. Global warming is a component of climate change, but there are other facets of climate change that scientists believe make the issue pressing.

Some reasons scientists are convinced that climate change is real.

This is the evidence they cite:

  1. Rising temperatures
    1. According to NASA, since the 19th century, the surface temperature of the Earth has been steadily increasing. However, the most significant changes have occurred over the past 35 years with the past few years seeing the highest rise in temperature.
  2. Rising ocean temperatures and sea level
    1. According to research published in the journal, Science, oceans are heating up 40% faster than was previously estimated by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This increase in warming is concerning because it is causing marine species to migrate to cooler waters, and it causes water to expand thus resulting in the next point.
    2. The rate of sea level rising currently is nearly double the level in the past century. This is important because 8 of the 10 largest cities in the world are coastal. In the U.S., 40% of the population lives in coastal areas. Rising sea levels mean a more significant threat to infrastructure and jobs. It also leads to more nuisance flooding, which ends up being expensive.
  3. Ocean acidification
    1. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,  (NOAA) Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period, caused primarily by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
    2. An increase in CO2, through various chemical reactions, causes carbonate ions to become less abundant. These ions are necessary for building calcifying structures present in shells. So a lack of carbonate ions affects organism such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. An increase in acidity also affects fish’s ability to detect predators and results in an overall disruption of the entire food web.
    3. Finally, because many economies depend on seafood, a decrease in sea life has a financial and economic ripple effect.
  4. Extreme weather

One of the most apparent indicators of severe weather is the increase in the number and severity of various weather events such as:

    1. Hurricanes: Based on existing satellite data, the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes have increased in frequency and duration.
    2. Floods: There are different kinds of floods. According to NCA, a flood is defined as any high flow, overflow, or inundation by water that causes or threatens damage and they are expected to increase in many U.S. regions even in those areas where precipitation is expected to decline.
    3. Heat waves: The number of heat waves has increased over the past year.
    4. Droughts: Higher temperatures will eventually lead to increase rates of evaporation, which will lead to loss of water from plants and soil.

What does that have to do with us

It boils down to the Earth’s natural greenhouse and the gases that contribute to it.

These gases include water vapor, methane. nitrous oxide, CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and carbon dioxide.

It’s the significant increase in carbon dioxide that makes scientist certain human activity is a primary culprit in what we call climate change.

Since the industrial revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has almost doubled from 280 ppm during the pre-industrial era to 400 ppm today. This increase has taken place because of the number of fossil fuels we’ve burned over the past few years. Additionally, human activity coming from industrial waste and land clearing from agriculture has also contributed to the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere destroying the Earth’s natural balance.

The consequence of this increase in greenhouse gases results in the phenomena listed above.

Why people don’t believe in climate change

The reasons are many, but the Public Religion Research Institute outlines it very nicely in the below chart.

Whether or not you agree, it is refreshing to live in a country where we’re not forced to agree. A country where it’s okay to doubt mainstream knowledge because even though there appears to be scientific evidence to support climate change, not all scientists agree on the source and cause. So if not all scientists agree, there is room for doubt, and we should respect that. However, should this change our response to it?

We don’t think so.

How should we respond

Whether you agree with climate change or not, we can all agree that there is no harm in taking care or stewarding the resources we were given. We didn’t make them, we were just tasked with taking care of them. And just like we do with everything else that we own, why is it a problem to do the same with the environment. Just as it’s tacky to litter when there is the option to leave the planet better than when we first met it, why wouldn’t we?

If you have the option to use renewable energy sources, to stop polluting the air and waterways, to treat people fairly, why wouldn’t you?

As far as the political perspective is concerned, who knows? We have no idea what policy works or is best. What we’re here to do is speak to the individual.

That being said, here are some practical things you can do, when you have the option, that will benefit both you and the planet you live in

Walk, ride a bike or use public transportation instead of driving your own car
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Plant trees
Use reusable containers
Ditch single-use plastic
Ditch plastic in general
Buy sustainable clothing
Shop sustainably in general
Choose organic

The bottom line is, where you can use less, do so. Whether or not you believe in climate change, stewardship is the issue here and that we can all agree to do well.

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Are there any points we missed? Let us know in the comments.