When we hear the phrase “global warming,” we might think of fossil fuels, carbon emissions and the greenhouse effect, or perhaps of deforestation and melting ice caps—problems that feel both insurmountably huge and removed from our day-to-day lives.
But with a steadily rising global average temperature comes problems that affect all of us. A recent assessment report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted the imminent dangers of global warming.
According to the report, this is the hottest Earth has been in 125,000 years. A temperature increase isn’t all that’s happening, though. There are more greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there has ever been in the past 2 million years, and ocean levels are rising at double the speed they were just 5 years ago.
What Does That Mean For Us?
On a human scale, we’ll see a further increase in natural disasters: think of the floods across Germany and in Henan, China. Or the wildfires that have become an annual occurrence in the United States. Or the heatwaves sweeping across Central, South, and East Asia. Or the—you get it.
In fact, researchers estimate over 1 billion people will be affected by life-threatening heatwaves and severe droughts, while extreme flooding and coastal damage that used to happen once every century will be wreaking havoc once a year by 2100. It’s inevitable: we will see an ice-free Arctic at least once by 2050.
But these deadly disasters are only the tip of the (fast-shrinking) iceberg. Rapid environmental degradation and depletion—the extreme and unsustainable destruction of our ecosystem and its resources—will cause animal and plant species to go extinct, disintegrating the delicate balance of nature on land, in the air, and underwater.
What Can We Do?
In the best-case scenario, researchers say global warming can come to a complete standstill if human activities become carbon-neutral by 2050.
Tip: A carbon footprint calculator can help measure our individual impact on the environment!
While most emissions come from large-scale environmental damage, there are plenty of things we can do to reduce or offset our individual carbon footprints, too. Carbon reduction helps lower our total carbon output, and carbon offsetting means taking action to reduce the impact of emissions we can’t cut down on yet.
“If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe.”
—UN Secretary General António Guterres
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Eco-friendly options are becoming more popular, and going green has never been easier. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, the climate crisis isn’t one we can solve overnight. Start with small steps, like bringing your own shopping bag and coffee mug, using renewable energy where possible and organizing beach cleanups with friends!
Global warming may well be unavoidable, but there’s still lots we can do to mitigate or even reverse the damage. If we work together to create even the smallest ripples, we can take better care of the planet—our home, and home to all life on Earth, too.
Written by Fion Tse