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Climate Change: What’s Really Happening?

Animals going extinct, Wildfires starting, Icebergs melting, 8 million metric tons of plastic surfacing the ocean. When is this all going to stop?

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Climate change has severely impacted us as a whole in our society and although we are trying to make a difference, it just keeps on getting worse and worse.  Someday it will reach a point where we can never go back to the way things were.

One of the biggest fundamental issues when it comes to climate change and biodiversity is plastic. Plastic plays a big role in climate change as sunlight and heat causes plastic to release powerful greenhouse gases. As our planet continues to heat up, plastic breaks down into methane at higher rates, in turn increasing the rate of global warming. Over 220 pounds of plastic is consumed by the average person only in a span of a year. In total, we use 300 million tons of plastic every year. Have you ever considered where the plastic ends up? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 8.4% of plastic gets recycled and the rest goes to landfills where it takes over 1000 years for the plastic to decompose. Much of this plastic finally ends up in the ocean, where millions of ecologically significant species live. Some of these species, such as turtles, ingest this plastic, believing it to be food, causing harmful effects to them and the environment and extinction. Every day, up to 150 species go extinct, exemplifying just how much climate change is a threat to biodiversity. 

Climate change has caused drastic changes in weather patterns. Greenhouse gases-which traps heat from leaving the earth’s atmosphere is one of the leading causes to global warming, and thus, climate change. According to c2es.org (Center for climate change and energy solutions) in the U.S, the coldest and warmest temperatures will increase by 5 °F in a majority of areas by the mid-century, by 10℉ by late century. Furthermore, scientists believe that extreme weather such as storms and heatwaves will be more frequent and more intense due to climate change. The diagram below shows temperature anomalies  drastically changing throughout the years, especially indicating an increase in above average temperatures. This illustrates climate change’s drastic effects in weather patterns.


NCDC diagram shows temperature anomalies changing from 1880 to 2010

As shocking as this might sound, the food you eat on a daily basis plays one of the most important roles in climate change. Both dairy and meat are two of the worst foods to consume in terms of their ecological footprint. Worldwide, livestock is responsible for over 14.5% of the greenhouse gases produced annually. For instance, for each kilogram of lamb made, 39.2 kg worth of carbon dioxide is produced. This is equivalent as driving 90 miles! In the U.S., 50% of lamb is imported, according to EWG and CleanMetrics Report, its carbon footprint thus includes its transportation cost. However, the vast majority of it comes from the processes of the animal’s digestion, and the production of food grown for the animal to digest. In addition, the production of meat causes a lot of water wastage, an increasingly scarce resource. The diagram below shows a graph of water usage in the production of meat products. It is shocking that it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to simply produce one pound of meat. In a span of a year, the average American can consume over 222.2 pounds of meat. Doing some calculations, you will find that, as a result of their meat consumption only, the average American consumes over 532,800 gallons of water per year. While efforts have been made by most to reduce plastic consumption, each of us must also consider our diet and our excessive meat consumption causing great harm to our environment.

There have been many activists that are trying their best to make a difference and help by making an impact in climate change. People like Greta Thunberg are out on the streets protesting – Greta Thunberg is one of the youngest and most well-known activists in the world. She’s only 17, but yet she has accomplished so many things. She left school and started protesting and having small gatherings, letting others know that people shouldn’t stay silent. She helped them realise and that if they want to act, they must act now and before it is too late. In the last 18 months, Greta has successfully succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift in the worldwide movement asking for change. Greta shows us that it may take time for all of this to change, but it has to start with one person –  and that one person can be you!

There are many ways to create change, by doing such small things that will add up to make a significant difference. One thing that we can all do to implement change in both our lives and our society is to use our own reusable bags when shopping and buying groceries. Instead of going to your local supermarket, go to your local farmers market and freshly pick your own fruits and vegetables. They are unprocessed and aren’t packaged in plastic bags or plastic containers, which are full of chemicals and pesticides harming the environment. Another thing you can do is to start limiting the amount of meat you eat, as it results in excessive water usage and the production of greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, you can sign up for group cleanups that help pick up trash, especially on the beach. 

As long as we all make small changes, they will gradually turn into huge advancements for us and our environment.


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