There are three sides to global warming: those that believe it and those that don’t and then the growing third side, those that believe it but don’t feel or care that they can do much about it. And these three sides are the topic of this article: Is climate change real and due to human activities, do our actions matter, and if it does, when should we start acting?
It would be nice to ask an independent person if global warming is real. Someone who has collated and rigorously synthesized all the existing evidence and who will provide an objective and impartial answer. Such a person exists in the form of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established 20 years ago. The role of the IPCC is to review all scientific information and report on all relevant aspects of climate change. Scientists world-wide contribute without being paid to the IPCC reports. Reports undergo a rigorous review process and summary reports are accepted and approved line by line.Â Their work awarded them the Nobel Peace Price in 2007, which they shared with Al Gore.
In their fourth assessment, published in 2008 to which more than 2700 scientists contributed, three main reports were published, which addresses whether climate change is real and due to human activities, what are the impacts of climate change and what response strategies exist.
The first report concluded that climate change is due to increases in greenhouse gases emitted by human activities and not because of a “natural” rise in global temperature. Findings showed that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (see box) have not been at current levels for as far back as 650 000 years. There are many direct observations of climate change which include: eleven of the last 15 years rank amongst the warmest this century, mountain glaciers and snow cover have declined, extreme weather events are increasing and global ocean temperatures have increased. This is contributing to sea level rises because warm water expands. These changes have already begun to influence human and natural systems for example increases in deaths due to extreme weather events and reduced growing season for crops.
Particular to this article, the IPCC reports noted that behavioural and lifestyle changes helps to reduce GHG emissions. In another study, Stanford biologists found that each individual action is like a wedge; it might start out small, but as more people participate and the size of the effort grows, so does the effect of the action. Imagine if 6.5 bn people did one small action; collectively the effect is huge. And the sooner you get started the better. Published in 2007 the Stern report reviewed the economics of climate change and concluded that immediate action strongly outweighs the costs. The longer we wait, the more it will cost.
Still not convinced that small actions make a difference?
Shifting just one red meat meal per week to fruit and veggies saves more than 2000 kilometers worth of driving. Recycling 1 tin will save 95% of the energy used to make it. The recent regulation passed by Obama to change the fuel efficiency of all USA vehicles to 6.2 km/ liter will save more than 40 mn barrels of oil/ year.
Here are some tips for reducing your carbon footprint:
- Turn the thermostat of your geyser down to 55Â°C and wrap a geyser blanket (available at hardware stores) around it. This action halved our electricity bill.
- Reduce your driving speed – Driving from Cape Town to Jeffreys Bay at an average of 100km/ hr and not my usual 120km/hr, saved half a tank of fuel.
- When you are having a cup of tea, fill the kettle for one cup of tea.
- Switch appliances off at the wall â€“ home appliances, like your TV uses standby power even when not switched on. (The same counts for your cell phone)
- Eat red meat one day less a week.
For more information on the IPCC visit www.ipcc.ch
This article was written by Susan Botha, who holds a MSc in Botany from UCT and is a trained permaculturist. She co-owns Kouga Urban Harvest Edible Gardens in Jeffreys Bay with her sister Jakkie Botha. See www.urbanharvest.co.za
You can also contact Ben in Cape Town on 072 475 2977.