Asking why we should care about climate change is like asking whether we should care about ourselves, our homes, or our loved ones. Climate change, if left unabated, will negatively affect everyone on this planet eventually—so not caring about it would be a big mistake!
We can all do our bit and adapt our everyday habits, so that we can continue living on a healthy planet that provides everything we need as humans!
What Is Climate Change?
Climate change refers to shifts in temperature and weather patterns on our planet. These climatic shifts have happened naturally in the past, with ice ages spanning hundreds of thousands of years. But in the past 200 years, we have seen rapid rises in temperature that can only be attributed to the way humans live. So, climate change as we know it today, is represented by unnaturally rapid temperature rise, changing weather patterns, more extreme weather, losses to biodiversity, and people dying. These are all things we cannot afford to let happen.
What Causes Climate Change?
Life on Earth is only possible due to the ‘greenhouse effect,’ in which gasses trapped in our atmosphere (“greenhouse gasses”), entrap some of the sun’s warmth, allowing for the wonderful natural, hospitable planet that we enjoy. But, due to the unsustainable way we currently consume, we are unnaturally increasing greenhouse gas concentration, trapping more of the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, and upsetting the planet’s delicate balance.
This process is far from natural: the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998, and 9 of the 10 have occurred since 2005. All this is caused and made worse, largely by animal agriculture and burning fossil fuels. There are other causes, but these two are by far the worst culprits, and we should do everything we can to change the way we consume and reduce their impact on the planet.
Why Should We Care About Climate Change?
Because climate breakdown will affect us all. As humans, we are a part of this planet and, just like all other living things, we rely on the ecosystem services the planet provides for us. Climate change, if we continue on our current path, will mean the gradual breakdown of these essential services—something we as a species will not be able to survive.
How Is Climate Change Affecting Animals?
- Habitats are changing due to climate change and many animals cannot adapt quickly enough. Biodiversity is declining globally, and there can be little doubt that there is one species responsible: humans.
- Animals are going extinct at alarming rates. Some scientists believe we are in the midst of a 6th mass extinction event, caused by humans.
- Food webs are being disrupted, with dire consequences for many species. For example, ocean temperature changes are reducing krill populations, meaning whales, penguins and seals have less food.
How Is Climate Change Affecting Farms And Our Food?
- In our globalized world, we often rely on food imported from all over the world. Some countries are so reliant on imports, they have very little resilience to changes in these supply chains. Climate change is already causing more droughts, heavy rainfall and other extreme weather, particularly in the global south, which affects food harvests. This has severe consequences for people who live there as well as those who rely on food imports from these countries.
- As global food supplies struggle due to climate change, the cost of food will increase and more people will be forced into poverty.
- Fresh water will only become more scarce, which will affect what kinds of foods we will be able to produce. Already, animal products use far too much water, making meat consumption a recklessly wasteful practice that only increases food insecurity. An unpleasant irony is that the farming industry will need to adapt to the effects of climate change, yet animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
How Is Climate Change Affecting People?
- Climate change is likely to cause 250,000 more deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, due to increased disease, extreme weather, malnutrition, and more.
- Due to increasing temperatures, it’s likely that disease-carrying mosquitoes will begin appearing in areas they have never occupied, causing higher transmission of diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
- The economic costs of climate change will be huge. The health-related costs alone are estimated to be between $2m and $4m per year by 2030.
- Climate refugees are already emerging, as climate breakdown decreases people’s ability to produce food for themselves and causes water shortages, extreme weather, and inhospitable environments. The number of climate refugees will only increase in the coming years.
- Subsistence farmers, those who rely on growing their own food to eat, make up 65 percent of the whole population of Africa. These farmers are amongst the most vulnerable to climate variability, and climate breakdown will be a major challenge for them.
- Climate breakdown is a major cause of mental health issues, particularly in young people who are destined to inherit a dying planet.
How Is Climate Change Affecting The Ocean?
- Climate change causes sea temperature rise, which results in devastating impacts such as coral reef bleaching. Over 50 percent of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered terrible bleaching and scientists agree that climate change makes these events at least 175 percent more likely.
- Sea temperature change could also change the oceans’ currents and the way in which both water and temperature are circulated around our planet. If major ocean currents are affected, aquatic habitats will drastically change, we will lose huge numbers of fish species, and our weather will be changed drastically.
- Ocean acidification is caused by higher CO2 concentrations in the ocean, and this change in water acidity weakens the shells of crustaceans. Given that crustaceans rely on their shells to survive, we stand to lose the largest group of marine anthropods on the planet.
What Will Happen If Climate Change Keeps Going?
Aside from all of the above,the ultimate result of climate change is the extinction of human and perhaps all animal life on the planet. The planet itself will survive, it has gone through several serious climatic changes in its lifetime. But, the beautiful, magical, unbelievably hospitable environment we have today, and therefore the life that relies on it, cannot last if we continue along the path we are on.
Solutions To Climate Change
Stop eating meat and dairy. Animal agriculture is a leading cause of global GHG emissions, as well as being a direct leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution, and biodiversity loss. Major research shows that moving away from animal products in our diets is vital for the health of the planet. So why not try vegan for the planet?
Transition away from fossil fuels. This is more the responsibility of the government than individuals, but we can all do our bit to burn less fuel, choose green energy wherever possible, and let governments know that we demand changes to how energy is produced.
Reduce our personal carbon footprint. We can all make changes to our consumption, whether that means cutting out meat and dairy, or reducing the amount we drive or fly, these changes all make a huge difference to carbon footprints.
Have one fewer child than planned. Research shows that this is one of the most effective ways of fighting climate changeIt may seem drastic but we are facing a crisis bigger than all of us, so drastic action is needed!
Join a green bank. Many people don’t realize how their money, sitting innocently in a bank account, is funding activities across the world that cause climate breakdown. The Good Trade has a list of green banks to choose from and here is a list of socially responsible funds, so your investments can match your values!
Be politically active! Our vote is the only say we have in who makes major decisions regarding our environment. Use it wisely!
Donate what money you can to fight climate breakdown. There are over 460 non-profit organizations in the US alone, working to fight climate change. This article from Vox can help you decide where your money is most useful!
Climate change is a big topic, and it can all seem like doom and gloom at times, but unfortunately, that’s because the reality truly is alarming! We all need to come together, and do our bit to fight climate change. If we don’t, the results for humanity, animals, and the planet could be catastrophic.
By going vegan, transitioning from fossil fuels, and all reducing our consumption habits, we’ve got a shot!