6th Station – Our relationship with the CLIMATE
Find yourself a quiet space to work, with internet access. Have a pen, paper and a calculator to hand along with the CLIMATE CHANGE – What I will do and why worksheet either in hard copy or online.
The Earth’s climate is constantly changing. Over the course of its history the Earth has warmed up and cooled down over periods lasting thousands of years. But over the past hundred years or so its average temperature has risen a little more than anticipated which has sparked concern. Some causes of climate change are natural. These include changes in Earth’s orbit and in the amount of energy coming from the sun. Ocean changes and volcanic eruptions are also natural causes of climate change.
But most scientists generally agree that recent warming can’t be explained by nature alone but is also due to additional emissions into the atmosphere of heat-trapping gasses (known as Greenhouse Gasses) such as carbon dioxide (CO2). These gasses are emitted as a result of human activity such as extracting, refining, transporting, and burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil, which is used to create most of the energy we use every day. We also cut down large expanses of CO2 absorbing trees to make way for agriculture and new developments. When these trees burn or decompose, they emit even more CO2. Add these things together and you arrive at an un-natural imbalance.
Why is this a problem? Watch this short film for a 2-minute overview:
The Climate Change Debate
Whilst the call for action on climate change has become loud and clear, not everyone agrees that it is a man-made problem, and not everyone agrees that it should be addressed by attempting to reverse it. Some people believe that it is a natural inevitability that only needs action in terms of how humans adapt to survive and thrive, and others consider that it requires no action at all.
At one extreme, the pro side argues that rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases are a direct result of human activities such as burning fossil fuels, and that these increases are causing significant and increasingly severe climate changes including global warming, loss of sea ice, sea level rise, stronger storms, and more droughts. They contend that immediate international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to prevent dire climate changes.
At the other extreme the con side argues human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are too small to substantially change the earth’s climate and that the planet is capable of absorbing those increases. They contend that warming over the 20th century resulted primarily from natural processes such as fluctuations in the sun’s heat and ocean currents. They say the theory of human-caused global climate change is based on questionable measurements, faulty climate models, and misleading science.
Wherever you sit in this debate, the actions that are promoted to respond to climate change – to reduce our consumption of the world’s natural resources through changing our attitudes and behaviours, and to reuse and recycle wherever possible – is arguably a good thing.
Watch and Learn:
Watch the following short films to deepen your understanding of the issues surrounding climate change. As you go consider the following questions (and make notes).
- What can be done, and is being done, to mitigate the effects of climate change?
- In what ways will humans need to adapt as our climate changes?
- Are there lessons to be learnt from previous environmental challenges? What are they?
- Why should we seek to reduce our carbon footprint?
Climate Change Adaptation: it’s time for decisions now
The potential impacts of climate change are widespread. Even if we were to stop emissions instantly, the world would not stop warming immediately due to the volume of gases already emitted. This short, animated film explains that alongside reducing greenhouse gas emissions we also need to adapt to inevitable climate change. But how can we adapt, considering that the precise extent and form of climate change aren’t known?
Can we solve global warming? Lessons from how we protected the ozone layer | Sean Davis
The Montreal Protocol proved that the world could come together and take action on climate change. Thirty years after the world’s most successful environmental treaty was signed, atmospheric scientist Sean Davis examines the world we avoided when we banned chlorofluorocarbons — and shares lessons we can carry forward to address the climate crisis in our time.
What YOU Can Do About Climate Change
Reducing your carbon footprint just got easier. This video created by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) uses animations to teach us how we can personally help counteract global warming. It’s examples reference to British Colombia but are relevant to us all, wherever in the world we are.
From turning out lights when you leave a room, to travelling to school by bus or bike, you can reduce your carbon footprint. By considering how and where you shop, and making a conscious effort to make more sustainable choices you can have a significant impact, through your personal actions, on a global problem. Buy products that will last. When you do shop, shop with companies that take a stand to reduce their own footprint. By shopping with companies that care, you’re sending the message that you care, too.
There are several different approaches to reducing your carbon footprint.
At the simplest level we can consider our actions and behaviours and make choices that we consider to be more environmentally friendly. Read this article and do some online research of your own to gather some suggestions as to how to go about doing this.
Another approach is to estimate or calculate the size of your carbon footprint and seek to reduce it through changing your behaviours. To help, here some approximate figures that we have taken from online sources, that indicate in tonnes of carbon dioxide, the impact of the following activities:
- a typical long-haul flight per person: 3 tonnes
- ten thousand miles driving in a typical family petrol car: 5 tonnes
- new clothes, accessories per person per year: 1 tonne
- recreation, leisure, entertainment per person per year: 2 tonnes
- heating a typical UK home for a year: 3 tonnes
- lighting, household appliances, per person per year: 2 tonnes
- eating beef once per day for a year: 2.5 tonnes
In recent years online “carbon calculators” have been developed to help make this easier. There are many different options out there and which one is best really depends on personal preference or where you are in the world. Check with your teacher to find out whether they have a preferred method for you to use if you would like to calculate your carbon footprint. We have chosen a fairly simple one here on the basis that it is fairly universal and non-commercial. You can access it here: https://ei.lehigh.edu/learners/cc/carboncalc.html
Whichever approach you take, the ultimate objective is the same: to reduce the negative impact of our activities on the environment.
We are all in this together: ActNow
ActNow is the United Nations’ global call to individual action on climate change. The campaign is a critical part of the UN’s coordinated effort to raise awareness, ambition, and action for climate change and accelerate implementation of the Paris Agreement. Primarily an online and social media campaign, ActNow aims to educate and encourage individual actions, mainly by adjusting consumption patterns. Its basic premise is that by changing our habits and routines, and making choices that have less harmful effects on the environment: We have the power to confront the climate challenge. Find out more about the campaign here: https://www.un.org/en/actnow/
Consolidate your learning:
Find your “CLIMATE CHANGE – What I will do and why” worksheet (or draw your own version). This worksheet asks you to consider actions that you can take based on the recommendations in of the UN’s ActNow campaign. In particular this year, the campaign has a focus on two mini campaigns around food and fashion.
Watch the following short films for further ideas and inspiration and make some notes before capturing your thoughts on the behaviours you can change and actions that you can take (and encourage your friends and family to take) to make a contribution to addressing some of the issues arising from Climate Change:
The carbon footprint of consumption | Diana Ivanova
Did you remember to turn off the lights before leaving home? Did you cut your shower short this morning? While these issues are important in decreasing your carbon footprint, Diana Ivanova argues that how you spend money is significantly more impactful.
The life cycle of a t-shirt – Angel Chang
Consider the classic white t-shirt. Annually, we sell and buy 2 billion t-shirts globally, making it one of the most common garments in the world. But how and where is the average t-shirt made, and what’s its environmental impact? Angel Chang traces the life cycle of a t-shirt
22 Inventions That Are Saving The Earth
From whirlpool turbines to edible cutlery, water blobs, and package-free shampoo and toothpaste. We’ve compiled a list of 22 inventions that could help us cut back on plastic, reduce garbage in the sea, and make the Earth a better place.