We’re all feeling a pinch on the Climate Change Effects that care of nothing sort of. And inasmuch as Kenyan Politicians continue to take the news limelight with corruption anonymity, it’s a new dawn realm. Of course, these are the same people mandated to protect mother nature. Yet, they’re day in and day out politicking about Climate Change without any actions.
And, as can be seen, there is a continued pledge from around the World to help address climate change, especially, the long-term effects of global warming. According to new research developments, global temperatures are still rising. This means, that it will have some effect while, consequently, forcing people to adapt to extremely new weather patterns.
But, it would also see a threat to humanity as we see it today. Basically, the meaning of climate change is way beyond even our reach. As can be attested through the dangers, risks, and effects it has on humanity. From each corner of the world, the after-effects are devastating. That’s why this guide will try to enlighten all parties on what we can do while we still can.
To begin with, many people think climate change mainly means warmer temperatures. But, in a real sense, the temperature rise is only the beginning of the story. Obviously, because the Earth is a system, where everything is connected — changes in one area can influence changes in all others.
What Climate Change Is All About
By definition, Climate Change refers to significant, long-term changes in the global climate. As you all know, the global climate is a connected system of a variety of supportive elements. Like the sun, earth and oceans, wind, rain and snow, forests, deserts and savannas, and everything people do, too.
According to United Nations, Climate Change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. Burning fossil fuels is even the worst.
One thing is for sure, burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures. Examples of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. These come from using gasoline for driving a car or coal for heating a building.
Another example is the clearing of land and forests which can also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While, at the same rate, landfills for garbage are a major source of methane emissions. Not forgetting, energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture, and land use are among the main emitters that are worth mentioning as well.
What is even more disturbing is that emissions continue to rise each day at a very alarming rate. And, as a result, the Earth is now about 1.1°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s. Bearing in mind, that the last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest on record compared to the other timelines a while back. Thus, there’s a need for action now, tomorrow is too late!
What Is Global Warming?
Global Warming is the slow increase in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. Simply, because an increased amount of the energy (heat) striking the earth from the sun is being trapped in the atmosphere and not radiated out into space.
The earth’s atmosphere has always acted like a greenhouse to capture the sun’s heat. Ensuring that the earth has enjoyed temperatures that permitted the emergence of life forms as we know them, including humans. Without our atmospheric greenhouse, the earth would be very cold.
Global warming, however, is the equivalent of a greenhouse with high-efficiency reflective glass installed the wrong way around. Ironically, the best evidence of this may come from a terrible cooling event that took place some 1,500 years ago.
Two massive volcanic eruptions, one year after another placed so much black dust into the upper atmosphere that little sunlight could penetrate. In the end, temperatures plummeted, crops failed and people died of starvation and the Black Death started its march.
But, as the dust slowly fell to earth, the sun was again able to warn the world and life returned to normal. Today, we have the opposite problem. Today, the problem is not that too little. Sun warmth is reaching the earth, but too much is being trapped in our atmosphere.
What Does The Research Show?
The climate of a place, say, New York, can be described as its rainfall, changing temperatures during the year, and so on. But, the global climate is more than the “average” of the climates of specific places. For instance, how the rising temperature of the Pacific feeds typhoons which blow harder, drop more rain, and cause more damage.
But, also shifts global ocean currents that melt Antarctica ice which slowly makes the sea-level rise until New York will be underwater. It is, therefore, this systemic connectedness that makes global climate change so important and so complicated. So much heat is being kept inside the greenhouse earth that the temperature of the earth is going up faster.
Faster than at any previous time in history. NASA provides an excellent course module on the science of global warming. In a new report published in September 2018, the world’s leading climate scientists made their starkest warning so far. Our current actions are not enough for us to meet our target of 1.5C of warming. With this in mind, we need to do more!
As a matter of fact, it’s settled science that climate change is real, and we’re starting to see some of the ways that it affects us. Additionally, it increases the likelihood of flooding in Miami and elsewhere threatening the millions of people living along the Brahmaputra River in north-eastern India. And also, disrupts the sex life of plants and animals along the way too.
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The Climate Change Consequences Plus What We Should Do
In reality, the major consequences of climate change now include, among others, intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms, and declining biodiversity. On the same note, climate change can even affect our health, ability to grow food, housing, safety, and work. Some of us are already more vulnerable.
Particularly, as far as climate impacts are concerned. Such as people living in small island nations and other developing countries. Conditions like sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion have advanced to the point where whole communities have had to relocate, and protracted droughts are putting people at risk of famine.
What’s even more worrying is that in the future, the number of “climate refugees” is expected to rise. The fact is that we face a huge challenge but we already know many solutions are there that we can easily and quickly adapt to before it’s too late, right? It’s no longer a matter of an individual here and there, but it’s a calling to join hands from far and wide.
Every Increase In Global Warming Matters
In reality, teenagers in more than 100 countries went on Strike as of March 2019. And in particular, protesting the failures of their leaders and their governments to take action on climate change.
So, please, watch how the single act of weather protest has led to the awakening video footage below. Remarkably, the movement began when a 16-year-old, Tunberg, took to the streets alone in August 2018 in Stockholm City.
As can be seen, from the Video Documentary courtesy of VICE News, teens are taking to the streets to take lead and fight climate change.
It’s also important to realize, people from various communities across the Kenyan plate are dying each day as a result of hunger. Below are some of the dos in the fight against global warming and climate change;
1. Limit the use of fossil fuels
The number one goal is? Of course, Limit the use of fossil fuels such as oil, carbon, and natural gas. And in that case, replacing them with renewable and cleaner sources of energy, all while increasing energy efficiency.
“We need to cut CO2 emissions almost in half (45%) by the end of the next decade,” says Kimberly Nicholas, associate professor of sustainability science at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), in Sweden.
The road towards that transition includes daily decisions within your reach – like driving and flying less, switching to a ‘green’ energy provider, and changing what you eat and buy.
Of course, it’s true that climate change won’t be solved by your buying or driving habits alone. Although many experts agree these are important and can influence others to make changes too (more on that later).
Other changes are needed that can only be made on a bigger, system-wide basis – like revamping our subsidy system for the energy and food industries, which continue to reward fossil fuels, or setting new rules and incentives for sectors like farming, deforestation, and waste management.
2. Change how industries are run or subsidized
Definitely, you can. Individuals need to exercise their rights both as citizens and as consumers. By putting pressure on their governments and on companies to make the system-wide changes that are needed.
Another way, increasingly undertaken by universities, faith groups, and recently even at a countrywide level, is to ‘divest’ funds out of polluting activities. Such as avoiding stocks in fossil fuels, or banks that invest in high-emission industries.
By getting rid of financial instruments related to the fossil fuel industry, organizations can both take climate action and reap economic benefits.
3. Other than that, what’s the best daily action I can take?
One 2017 study co-authored by Lund University’s Nicholas ranked 148 individual actions on climate change according to their impact.
Going car-free was the number-one most effective action an individual could take (except not having kids). Not to mention, cars are more polluting compared to other means of transportation. Like walking, biking, or using public transport.
In industrialized countries such as European nations, getting rid of your car can reduce 2.5 tonnes of CO2 – about one-fourth of the average yearly emissions (9.2 tonnes) contributed by each person in developed countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“We should choose more efficient vehicles and, whenever possible, switch directly to electric vehicles,” says Maria Virginia Vilarino, co-author of the mitigation chapter in the IPCC’s latest report.
4. But isn’t renewable energy extremely expensive?
Actually, renewables like wind and solar are becoming increasingly cheap across the world (although final costs are subject to local circumstances).
The latest report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found that several of the most commonly used renewables will be on par with or cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020. Like solar, geothermal, bioenergy, hydropower, and onshore wind. Some are already more cost-effective.
The cost of utility-scale solar panels has fallen 73% since 2010, for example, making solar energy the cheapest source of electricity for many households in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. In the UK, onshore wind and solar are competitive with gas and by 2025 will be the cheapest source of electricity generation.
Some critics argue that these prices disregard the price of integrating renewables into the electricity system – but recent evidence suggests these costs are ‘modest’ and manageable for the grid.
5. Could I make a difference by changing my diet?
That’s a big one, too. In fact, after fossil fuels, the food industry – and in particular the meat and dairy sector – is one of the most important contributors to climate change.
If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the US. The meat industry contributes to global warming in three major ways.
Firstly, cows’ burping from processing food releases lots of methane, a greenhouse gas. Secondly, we feed them with other potential sources of food. Like maize and soy, which makes for a very inefficient process.
And finally, they also require lots of water, fertilizers that can release greenhouse gases, and plenty of lands. Some of these come from cleared forests, another source of carbon emissions.
You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to make a difference: cut down gradually and become a ‘flexitarian’. By reducing your consumption of animal protein by half, you can cut your diet’s carbon footprint by more than 40%.
A larger-scale approach could be something like banning meat across an organization, as office-sharing company WeWork did in 2018.
6. How harmful are my flying habits?
Planes run on fossil fuels, and we haven’t figured out a scalable alternative. Although some early efforts to use solar panels to fly around the world have had success, we are still decades away from commercial flights running on solar energy.
A normal transatlantic round-trip flight can release around 1.6 tonnes of CO2, according to Nicholas’s study – almost as much as the average yearly emissions of one person in India. This also highlights the inequality of climate change. While everyone will be affected, only a minority of humans fly and even fewer people take planes often.
7. Should I be shopping differently?
Most likely. That’s because everything we buy has a carbon footprint. Either in the way, it is produced or in how it is transported.
For instance, the clothing sector represents around 3% of the world’s global production emissions of CO2, mostly because of the use of energy to produce attire. The hectic pace of fast fashion contributes to this figure as clothes are discarded or fall apart after short periods.
International transport, including maritime and air shipping, also has an impact. As well as groceries shipped from Chile and Australia to Europe or the other way around. Usually, they have more ‘food miles’ and a higher footprint than local produce.
But, this is not always the case, as some countries grow out-of-season crops in energy-intensive greenhouses – so the best approach is to eat food that is both locally grown and seasonal. Even so, eating vegetarian still beats only purchasing locally.
8. Should I think about how many children I have (or don’t have)?
Nicholas’s study concluded that having fewer children is the best way to reduce your contribution to climate change, with almost 60 tonnes of CO2 avoided per year. But this result has been contentious – and it leads to other questions.
One is whether you are responsible for children’s climate emissions, and the other is where are these babies born.
If you are responsible for your kids’ emissions, are your parents responsible for yours? And if you are not, how should we consider the fact that more people will likely have more carbon emissions? We also could ask whether having offspring is a human right beyond question.
And we could ask if having children is necessarily a bad thing for solving climate change: our challenges may mean we will need more problem-solvers in future generations, not fewer. Those are hard, philosophical questions – and we’re not going to try to answer them here.
9. But if I eat less meat or take fewer flights, how much difference will it make?
Actually, it’s not just you. Social scientists have found that when one person makes a sustainability-oriented decision, other people do too. Here are four examples:
- Patrons at a US cafe who were told that 30% of Americans had started eating less meat were twice as likely to order a meatless lunch.
- An online survey showed respondents who know someone who had given up flying because of climate change. Whilst, half of them said they flew less as a result.
- In California, households were more likely to install solar panels in neighborhoods that already have them.
- Community organizers trying to get people to install solar panels were 62% more successful in their efforts if they had panels in their houses too.
Social scientists believe this occurs because we constantly evaluate what our peers are doing. And we adjust our beliefs and actions accordingly.
When people see their neighbors taking environmental action, like conserving energy, they infer that people like them also value sustainability. Feeling more compelled to act.
10. What if I just can’t avoid that flight, or cut down on driving?
If you simply can’t make every change that’s needed, consider offsetting your emissions with a trusted green project. Not a ‘get out of jail free card’, but another resource in your toolbox. To compensate for that unavoidable flight or car trip.
The UN Climate Convention keeps a portfolio of dozens of projects around the world you can contribute. To find out how many emissions you need to ‘buy back,’ you can use its handy carbon footprint calculator.
Whether you are a coffee farmer in Colombia or a homeowner in California, climate change will have an impact on your life. But the opposite is also true! Your actions will influence the planet for the coming decades. For better or for worse!
How is the Green Belt Movement helping?
According to Wangari Maathai, as well as her well-founded Green Belt Movement, agreeably, Climate Change poses one of the greatest challenges facing the World in the 21st Century. Notably, also, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) notes that climate change, if not tackled, will have a severe negative impact.
Especially, on global water scale supply, agricultural yields, marine ecosystems, and the spread of vector-borne diseases. And could result in the displacement of thousands of people. From coastal cities and small islands (Kenya climate change action plan).
Important to realize, current Climate Change policies and actions in Kenya, and world-over, do neither provide effective support. For community engagement in decision-making. Nor does it provide sustainable livelihoods and environmental conservation.
It is because of this that the Green Belt Movement (GBM) has a Climate Change Program that aims at strengthening the understanding and capacity of rural communities to take action against climate change. As well as raise awareness nationally on the role of local communities and forests in tackling climate change.
In general, GBM has a long working relationship with like-minded stakeholders. Including, the Government of Kenya in climate change programs and REDD+ activities. Whereas, some of the REDD+ activities that the organization partners with the government are increasing. Such as the carbon projects in the Aberdare forest, Mt. Kenya forest, and the Mau forest.
Africa and Kenya in general, indicate that women are the most vulnerable. Especially, those from the marginalized arid and semi-arid areas. In relation to the current effects of climate change.
This is because; they are in charge of most of the domestic and livelihood activities. They are often responsible for their families. And most of their time is spent looking for food and water which are often scarce in such regions.
Women are at the center of climate change challenges; they have been disproportionately affected as victims. Women, especially in Africa and Kenya specifically deal with multiple stresses as an integral part of their daily lives.
It is more difficult for grassroots women who find themselves managing families in very strenuous circumstances. Where traditional livelihoods are under threat and where men are often absent.
There is, therefore, a need for innovative strategies and practices to alleviate poverty. As well as ensure survival in the face of climate change. So, with that in mind, how do you get involved? Well, you can Be a Hummingbird! And, as such, plant a tree ( read more about tree benefits) in your neighborhood.
Equally important, you can also download teaching materials online or even donate to help fund our projects in Kenya and beyond. However, in case you choose to help, I still hope you’ll keep in touch and, as Professor Wangari Maathai used to say: do the best you can, now!