For several reasons it’s so important for organizations to do their part in helping to solve the energy dilemma – corporate social responsibility, reduced operational spending, public pressure, etc. But it’s just as important for us – as individuals – to do ours. How we live directly impacts the world we live in – which directly impacts each of us, our children, their children, and their future.
Although most scientists agree that global warming is real and happening, many people are skeptical. Others simply don’t understand what it means – or what it means for the future. Most don’t know how they can make a difference – or believe they can.
Here are some facts & stats that might enlighten the doubtful or educate the unaware. If this blog changes the thinking of just 1 person, that’s a difference in and of itself – right?
What is global warming?
Simply put, global warming is the rising temperature of the Earth’s surface and oceans – and the expected continuation over time. Climate change is a natural cycle lasting about 40,000 years. However, human activity is accelerating this process … aka … global warming.
How fast is it happening?
As mentioned in my previous blog, our world is already hotter today than it has been in two thousand years – and by the end of the 21st century, it has the potential to be hotter than in 2 million years. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average world temperature could increase 4 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is causing it?
Some of it is nature-made (e.g. volcanic eruptions, Earth’s changing orbit around the sun, etc.). But most of the problem is man-made. Global warming is believed to be caused by the greenhouse effect.
What is the greenhouse effect?
Think of a greenhouse – it essentially traps heat. This is what’s happening to the planet. When certain gases are present they trap heat (radiation from the sun) in the atmosphere which continuously warms our planet. These gases are called greenhouse gases (GHG) such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane.
Historically, this hasn’t been an immediate concern as without the greenhouse effect our planet would be too cold to inhabit. However, today more & more heat is being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere instead of radiating out into space, causing the temperature to rise rapidly. The Earth’s average surface temperature is about 59°F/15°C – that’s 1.03°F/0.57°C higher than it was for most of the 20th century (according to the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center).
What causes this?
There are two major factors: deforestation (clearing forests) and burning of fossil fuels (e.g. coal, oil, and gas). Nearly 50% of the world’s original forests had been destroyed by 2011. Tropical deforestation is responsible for approximately 20% of world GHG emissions, releasing 1.5 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. It was estimated by the Energy Information Administration that in 2007, 86.4% of primary energy consumption in the world was from fossil fuels.
Who burns fossil fuels – and why?
Fossil fuels are burned to release energy. Power plants burn them to generate electricity. Vehicles burn them for power. An open fireplace burns them for heat. All of us use this energy every day which is resulting in our planet is becoming too warm, too fast.
What are the consequences?
There are many and we’re already feeling them. The impact is greater than just increased temperatures. Ice is melting worldwide. Sea levels are rising. Precipitation patterns are shifting across the globe. The ranges of infectious diseases are being altered. Here are just a few eye-opening stats to help put this in perspective:
- In recent years, the occurrence of category 4-5 hurricanes has increased.
- Penguin breeding pairs on Antarcticahave decreased from 32,000 to 11,000 in 30 years.
- Heat waves have become 2 to 4 times more common over the last 50 years and are expected to be 100 times more likely over the next 40.
- The World Health Organization states that new diseases are on the rise, and in more disparate countries than ever before (e.g. West Nile disease inCanada).
- Experts predict drought conditions could increase by 66%.
- Rainfall in Ethiopia could decline by 10% over the next 50 years.
- The Quelccaya ice cap in Peru will be gone by 2100 if it continues to melt at its current rate.
- It’s feared that if sea ice disappears, polar bears will become extinct.
- If temperatures rise by more than 2 to 11.5 degrees, 30% of plant & animal species alive today risk extinction by 2050.
How can we make a difference?
We can become more energy efficient. Experts say the majority of the problem is man-made – so isn’t it up to us to fix it? With just a few simple lifestyle changes, we can help shape the path of climate change. Here are some suggestions:
- Half of the energy in your home is consumed by heating and cooling. Use a programmable thermostat to maintain control.
- 20% of a home’s utility bill is from lighting – switch to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, which use 75% less energy.
- Reduce the use of hot water – wash laundry in cold water, take shorter showers.
- Purchase energy-efficient appliances and products.
- Unplug electronic devices when not in use (cell phone charger, microwave, computer).
- Turn off your television, lights, fans, etc. when you’re not home or occupying a room.
- Install energy efficient windows – this can reduce your energy bill by as much as 7-24%.
- Ensure your home is properly insulated – doors windows, vents, etc.
- Convert from electric to natural gas heat.
- Support saving endangered forests. Tropical forests absorb enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and release oxygen in a never-ending life cycle.
- Perform a home energy audit and learn many more suggestions.
- Educate yourself on alternate forms of energy.
We don’t need to make drastic changes to make a difference. We just need to believe we can. Do you have other interesting facts & stats? Please share them below.