Global warming, climate change, greenhouse gases…we read about them all the time. By now we know that it’s one of our biggest problems. But all too often it seems like the province of governments, discussing possible agreements to lower carbon emissions, or talking about ideas like carbon trading.
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t engage us directly. It’s too theoretical. The only way to really understand how climate change is moving rapidly is to see its effects and understand how they affect us.
What We’ve Seen Lately
You can almost catalogue the weather changes in recent years due to climate change. Think of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which decimated New Orleans in 2005, or the flooding in South Yorkshire and the Midlands in the summer of 2007, followed by drought and floods all across Africa. These are things we’ve all seen and experienced.
The weather extremes are becoming more severe. There’s talk about improving the London tide barrier flood defences – because sea levels are rising. All these things affect all of us. We’re watching the climate change every year, and we’re literally paying for it. Food production goes down because of weather extremes, so our grocery bills increase.
We hear a lot about the extinction of animal species, but one that’s under great threat – the polar bear. The Arctic is changing as global temperatures rise, and the bear’s habitat is vanishing.
Our island is getting smaller as sea levels increase. We’re having tornados with real destructive power – something rarely seen before. All of these things can be laid at the door of climate change.
We should also realise that they’re going to get worse before they get better. In fact, it’s debatable whether things can ever reverse. We’re probably living in a new normal, where we have to expect much less calmness in the weather. Our mild English summers will fluctuate between sodden and awful and heatwaves, with temperatures up in the 30s and 40s as normal – Mediterranean summers at home.
These are the things that we know to expect. Winters, too, will be wetter. There may well be other, unanticipated things, too. The bottom line is that our lives are all changing, and we’re seeing global warming in action every single day.
What We Can Do
Global temperatures are rising. That’s a fact, and we need to get used to it. The big question is making sure they don’t rise too much. An increase of two degrees Celsius might not seem like much, but we’ll be lucky if we can contain it at that. It’s going to take a lot of work and sacrifice, and we’ll need to start very soon – by 2015 at the latest with major international government initiatives. There have been plenty of calculations about what will happen if the global temperature rises instead by three, four, five or even six degrees and the answers are anything but heartening.
Before that, though, all of us can help bring about changes. It’s not that difficult, but everything helps. Above all, there’s no real choice in the matter. We all have to take steps to reduce our individual carbon footprints.