Updated: Jan 28, 2020
The world is presently divided into two camps: people who believe that the global climate is changing, and others who deny the phenomenon. Whichever camp you may belong to, the evidence is hard to ignore. For one, extreme weather conditions have become commonplace. So, while some parts of India have seen heavy rain followed by flash floods (Mumbai in June 2019, Kerala in 2018, Uttarakhand in 2013), as much as 44% of India has been facing various degrees of draught as of June 2019 (Source: Drought Early Warning Systems).
Rising sea levels also makes coastal areas prone to severe flooding. A study done by the US research institute Climate Central indicates that the Arabian Sea could begin entering and flooding most parts of Mumbai and other coastal areas around the world by 2050.
As we write this article, Cyclone Bulbul is wreaking havoc in West Bengal, and has affected 2.73 lakh families across the state. Meteorologists have stated that the Arabian Sea has seen the formation of four cyclones in 2019, a rare phenomenon that has been recorded after 117 years. It’s no surprise that the United Nations describes climate change as “the defining issue of our time”.
NASA’s page on global climate change says the current warming trend is alarming because there is more than 95% probability of it being the result of human activity, and its proceeding at a rate “unprecedented over decades to millennia”. The evidence it highlights is undeniable: Earth’s average surface temperature has risen 0.9 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century driven by carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions; oceans have absorbed the increased heat and become warmer, while ice sheets are melting rapidly. The globals sea level rose 8 inches in the last century.
While it’s easy to throw up your hands and blame the inefficient authorities, there is a lot that can be done. We can take lessons from Greta Thunberg, who at age 15, skipped school to start a climate strike outside the Swedish Parliament. She inspired a massive global climate strike on September 20 this year where children, youth, activists, and common people protested the inaction of the government/industrialists on preventing climate change. An estimated 4 million people across the globe participated in it (Source: Vox).
While we can follow Thunberg’s example and raise a voice against climate change, there are other ways to make a difference as well. Here are 5 simple changes that can go a long way:
1) Make responsible travel choices: A short-haul return flight can account for 10% of your yearly carbon emissions (Source: WWF). If you can avoid taking flights (at least for short distances), you can reduce your carbon footprint. Opting for public transport, such as train rides or bus journeys, can be a more sustainable way of travelling.
2) Eat local:
The food you eat can impact the climate. It’s best to eat locally-sourced produce which cuts down on carbon emissions from transport. Check whether the foods you eat have led to forest loss, greenhouse gas emissions or huge consumption of water in their production.
It takes around five months for a cotton cloth to decompose, and in the process, it will clog the landfills. The ‘slow fashion movement’ seeks to offer a more sustainable way to use garments so that they last longer, are made ethically without exploiting the producers, and ensure a lower carbon print. Similarly, you can avoid utilising single-use plastic, or wastage of food, and opt to recycle clothes or other objects.
4) Plant a sapling:
We can make a difference by planting a few saplings and looking after them. Keep in mind: A single tree can absorb carbon dioxide at the rate of 5 kilograms per tree (Source: urbanforestrynetwork.org).
5) Carry your own bottle everywhere:
Single-use plastic bottles contribute to ecological pollution. It’s best to carry a metal bottle and just refill it, instead of buying plastic bottles every time. Similarly, fix all your leaking taps to reduce water wastage.