BY: CHRIS SMITH
Whether you believe it or not, the climate of our planet is changing. In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius hypothesised that the burning of fossil fuels by humans could theoretically cause the earth’s average temperature to rise. Now, 120 years later we are seeing the greenhouse effect, first hand. It is therefore the responsibility of ourselves, especially those of us living in developed, industrialised countries to play our part in doing what we can to reverse the effects of global warming before it is too late.
Luckily we live in a time where worldwide research is being undertaken into both global warming, and what we can do to reduce and even reverse the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There are little things that we can do as individuals that are shown to have a positive effect on the environment. It’s all too simple to think that one person can’t make a difference, but the only way we can solve this problem is by working together, and changing our damaging habits.
The way we eat and our choices regarding food have a profound effect on nature and the environment. From an environmental perspective, one of the most harmful things that you can eat is red meat. While the definition of what specifically constitutes as red meat isn’t quite universal, in this instance we’ll be referring to beef. When it comes to intensively farming cattle, the negative environmental effects are twofold. Firstly, the amount of land required to farm beef cattle is far greater than that needed for pork, lamb or poultry. As a result of this, vast swathes of land in South America, much of it rainforest, have been cleared to turn into cattle ranches. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of deforestation within the Amazon rainforest is due to farming cattle.
In addition, farming cattle releases massive amounts of harmful methane gas into the atmosphere. Leading researchers have argued that giving up red meat would reduce an individual’s carbon footprint more than giving up their car. Luckily there are alternatives available such as Quorn and soya products that are more widely accessible than ever before.
Across most of Western Europe and North America, governments are doing what they can to encourage people to take up cycling as a means of transportation. Holland is a great example of a first-world country leading the way for cycling. This guide to cycling in the Netherlands shows how deeply entrenched bicycle use is within the national psyche. Elsewhere, the British government has been actively encouraging people to opt in to its Cycle To Work scheme. The initiative allows those who opt in to not have to pay tax on a new bike, provided it is used to commute to a place of work.
This infographic gives insight into where we lose energy in our homes. These problems with traditional housing have been recognised and identified, and can be solved without having to make massive changes to the structure of your existing home. An estimated 30 per cent of energy is lost through the average house roof, but using fibreglass loft insulation goes a long way to containing heat, as does wall insulation and double glazed windows. Creating a home that is more efficient will require you to use less energy, and will therefore have a lower environmental impact than a house that requires more power to heat.
It’s fair to say, however that not all homes suffer from the problem of losing heat. Solar panels are widely available in areas that are exposed to consistently high levels of sunlight. No fossil fuels are burned and no carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Those of us who have solar panels on our houses also have the opportunity to sell any excess electricity generated by our solar panels back to the national grid. It’s a win-win situation, and should be taken advantage of by anyone who lives in an area that experiences excessive sunlight.
If we are to have any chance of reversing, or at the very least, reducing the effects of global warming, it’s going to take a concentrated effort from all of us. The issue with individualism is that many people are happy to sit back and assume that a quick fix idea will spring out of a lab in some far flung corner of the world, and the greenhouse effect will be put to rest.
The reality is that we are only as strong as our collective attitude towards climate change, and what is required to combat this issue is effort from each and every one of us. The world needs to wake up to this issue, because we are sleepwalking our way to catastrophe.
Image sourcing: ybonline.co.uk