It is all about climate change nowadays. And with good reason! More and more people experience this at first hand. The seasons are getting confused as a consequence of global warming. I got surprised myself by the monsoon (rainy season) arriving one month earlier than normal in Cambodia, impacting the diving conditions greatly. Rising sea water temperatures causes corals to bleach. Bleaching is a coral’s natural response to severe stress, and if the stress persists for too long, corals can die. In addition, bleached corals become more vulnerable to disease. Mass coral bleaching events are becoming more frequent due to our greenhouse gas emissions.
And why there are still people denying global warming, Mother Nature has just made herself clear. Only a couple of days ago a massive iceberg broke off from the Antarctica ice shelf. It is estimated the iceberg that is now drifting through the Southern Ocean would be about 620 feet (190 metres) thick and harbour some 277 cubic miles (1,155 cubic kilometres) of frozen water. That’s big enough to fill more than 460 million Olympic-size swimming pools with ice, or nearly all of Lake Michigan – one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in the world! Due to the rapid rising of temperatures in West Antarctica, ice shelves are becoming more fragile than ever. Not only does this massive iceberg pose a security risk to maritime traffic, its separation could cause other glaciers to drift into the Atlantic Ocean and melt, which could raise the global water mark by 10 centimetres.
Sea level rises will cause floods and leave entire villages blank. People will have to leave their homes and find shelter elsewhere. Such climate refugees will put even more pressure on the already basic infrastructure in developing countries, unavoidable leading to conflicts. And while this is an enormous task to be tackled by governments, there are a few easy lifehacks that can help us to reduce our CO2 footprint to help slow down this process while governments continue pointing fingers at each other.
- Go public! As I do not have a car, I am already a loyal customer of public transportation. For a long time, I commuted between home and work for 3 hours a day. And while this wasn’t always a joyride, I still got more things done than if I would have taken a car. I had time to read the newspaper, respond to texts and emails, to read that book I never got around to, or just to enjoy my power nap. I didn’t have to pay for fuel or insurance or parking tickets and waste my time finding parking spots or being stuck in traffic jams.
- Buy local food and cut the beef and dairy as much as possible! It is often cheaper and while we are reducing our CO2 footprint, we are also supporting the local economy.
- Save energy! Just remind to turn off lights, heating, air-conditioning and other electric appliances when leaving the room. Also replacing light bulbs with LED lights, insulating the house and installing solar panels will do the trick, while saving on electricity bills the same time.
- Go paperless! Think twice before printing out a 100-page report and ask phone operators and electricity providers to send the bills electronically. Forests and mangroves are true carbon sinks, capturing billions of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the train doesn’t take me to all destinations. In Europe, ‘Blablacar’ is a car sharing initiative which is cheap, fast, safe and very user friendly. However, to go outside Europe, I am often bound to take an airplane to reach my travel destinations. As these planes are not yet running on third generation biofuel, my carbon footprint is increasing every time I buckle my seatbelt and listen to the safety instructions. Carbon offsetting is a way to reduce the emissions that can’t be avoided. It both helps to combat global climate change as well as caring for local communities by carefully selecting a project to support. In many instances it can provide much needed employment, health improvement, biodiversity and broad social benefits to impoverished communities. As a first step, calculate and measure your carbon footprint on websites such as http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx and http://www.nature.org/greenliving/ carboncalculator/index.htm and secondly, offset any unavoidable carbon emissions by selecting a carbon offset project.
As a final conclusion, I would like to say we cannot ‘buy’ our way out of the responsibility. Before offsetting emissions, we have to minimize our individual impact on the planet first, whether it be traveling, getting to work, shopping, eating, or buying coffee in the corner café instead of a Starbucks. In doing so, we can each make small, everyday changes that, when combined, will go a long way in curbing global warming.