What is Climate Change and Why Is It Bad?
The term ‘climate change’ formerly known as ‘global warming’ may seem like old news, unfortunately, the problems associated with this title are far from over.
Now you may be thinking: what’s so bad about climate change? An extra-long summer is an Aussie surfer’s dream!
Well, we hate to break it to you, but climate change isn’t the answer to your sun-tanning schedule. From how it happens to what we can do to prevent the damaging effects of climate change, follow along to discover the answer to that burning question, ‘what is climate change?’.
What is Climate Change?
The best way to get a handle on climate change is to unpack what we call ‘the greenhouse effect’.
A greenhouse purposely traps heat from the sun inside by utilizing glass walls that allow light in and prevent some of the heat radiation from escaping back out. As the sun shines on the greenhouse through the day, the trapped heat radiation causes the temperature to rise. This is perfect for keeping temperature-sensitive plants such as strawberries and tomatoes warm and makes it so that these summer growers can survive in the cool winter months too.
The Earth’s atmosphere works in a very similar way. As sunlight comes into the atmosphere, some of the light energy is ‘trapped’ by gases like carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide, and CFCs. These are what we call ‘greenhouse gasses’.
Not all of this trapped energy is ‘bad’. In fact, we need some gasses to trap the heat to keep the earth at a suitable temperature for life. The problem comes when too many of these gasses are present and the greenhouse (aka the Earth’s atmosphere) becomes overheated.
This is why climate change used to be called ‘global warming’.
What’s So Bad About Global Warming?
When this term first came about, many sceptics were unconcerned, after all, a longer summer doesn’t seem so bad, right? Unfortunately, the term global warming then became misleading.
You see, a warmer atmosphere doesn’t just mean the summers are hotter. The trapped gasses make for extreme weather patterns, causing colder winters, drier desserts, wetter rainforests - and so on and so forth. Consequently, the occurrence of natural disasters such as floods, landslides, wildfires, and more begin to climb as well.
As this continues, the species that used to survive in each of these climates begin to die off. Our atmosphere is then no longer suitable for living creatures and we enter another phase like the ice age (not so good for the human population).
In addition to this, the increased temperature (currently about1.15 degrees warmer than 150 years ago) is melting important glaciers that keep our water levels in check. As these glaciers that hold69% of the earth’s freshwater melt, the level of the ocean rises. The land along the coast is then underwater and no longer livable for humans or any other land-dependent species.
Where Are the Extra Greenhouse Gasses Coming From?
Since the Industrial Revolution, we as a population have increased the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide presence by more than a third. Ouch!
As we began doing things such as sending more rubbish to the landfill, burning fossil fuels, mass-producing animal agriculture, and driving vehicles on a daily basis, the greenhouse gases we emit slowly but surely climbed to unmanageable numbers.
Everything we produce, ship, fertilize, and throw away then contributes to the overpopulation of greenhouse gases.
While this sounds terrible - the great news is that we can control these attributing factors!
How is Plastic Linked to Climate Change?
Plastic doesn’t just pollute our environment, it is a huge contributor to global warming! How?!
Researchers have discovered that plastics emit traces of methane and ethylene (two powerful greenhouse gases) as they decay! According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methane warms the planet 86 times higher than carbon dioxide!
The researchers used a variety of plastics that are used to make food containers, textiles, construction materials and other plastic products. Emissions occur when plastic is exposed to the ambient solar radiation (sunlight) in air or in the water. The rate of emissions increases over time and are much higher out of the water. Eeeep!
Most plastic is derived from fossil fuel sources (like ethylene and propylene) which are derived from oil and gas. 4% of the world's annual petroleum production is diverted to making plastic, and another 4% is burned in the refining process. The most devastating part is that these products are used for a matter of minutes before they are sent to landfill with less than 12% being recycled!
Every time plastic is recycled its quality decreases. It can only be recycled 1-2 times before it has to be turned into a lower quality material such as plastic lumber, or synthetic fibers (fabric or insulation). Unfortunately these items are only recyclable through specific recycling programs and are not accepted through your yellow kerbside bin.
This increases the chance of them piling up in landfills alongside other single-use plastics (hellooo straws and cutlery) where they will break down into micro plastics, emit harmful greenhouse gases, and leach chemicals into the environment. Yikes!
As plastics degrade into smaller pieces they become a huge threat to the environment, wildlife, and even the human food chain! Smaller plastics are dispersed and ingested by marine animals causing serious health issues. Its estimated that humans eat roughly a credit card (5g) worth of plastic each week via eating seafood and drinking water.
What Can We Do About Climate Change?
Since the excess gasses are human-produced, the easiest way to make a difference is to lower our gas-emitting activities.
Let’s take a look at the steps we can take to help out!
Reduce the Amount of Plastic in Your Life!
It’s actually easier than you think to significantly reduce the amount of plastic in your life! Start with the products you use the most, you can find this out by completing a bin audit (we wrote a blog about where to start reducing your waste here).
Fortunately metal and glass packaging can be recycled infinite amount of times without losing its quality, so opt for these materials along with compostable papers and cardboards. Do your research before you buy into compostable plastics! You can read more about why you should be cautious with them here.
At Go For Zero all of our products are sustainably packaged in reusable, compostable or easily recyclable material that contains little to no plastic. We constantly challenge our suppliers to use better packaging too! You can shop by packaging via our home page here.
Reduce Your Overall Waste
We're not just talking about plastic here, think of your food, clothing, menstrual products and more! Landfills produce a lot of methane - in fact, it’s one of thetop 3 contributors in the world! As one of the most harmful greenhouse gasses, reducing the amount of waste that we send to landfills goes a long way.
By making small, sustainable swaps in your everyday life such as ditching disposables, buying in bulk, and opting for zero-waste packaging and products, you can make a pretty impressive difference!
On the subject of keeping waste of the landfill - give composting a try!
Food waste produces a whopping 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but composting is a simple and easy solution. Whether you use acountertop composter or sink aSubpod into your backyard, disposing of food scraps responsibly has never been more important.
Let’s be honest, farm animals are stinky! Perhaps that’s because they are literally farting off methane gases all day long!
While a small amount of cow farts doesn’t seem like a big deal, the sheer volume of animal agriculture has led to sky-high methane emissions, deforestation, and a crazy amount of both water and land usage.
If you’re out to make a difference, reducing your animal product consumption bygoing vegetarian, vegan, or even just having a meatless Monday each week goes a long way.
Become a Thrifter
Everything we produce has a carbon footprint. The more we buy, the more needs to be made, and the higher this footprint is.
Where possible, hit the secondhand shops in your neighbourhood or shop on resale sites like Facebook Marketplace to reduce your consumption of new goods and decrease the demand for production.
Not only is this great for the environment but it’s friendly to your wallet too!
Can’t get it secondhand? Try to buy from local shops before having goods flown in from overseas.
Every time we ship items, we need fossil fuels to deliver them. The less transport we can make - the better!
At Go For Zero we only stockAussie made brands to reduce the need for overseas shipments and help support our Australian economy (win-win!).
Reduce Fossil Fuel Consumption
Heading out for a coffee? Swap your drive out for a relaxing and healthy walk instead!
Opting for walking, bike riding, or carpooling are all great ways to cut down on our fossil fuel dependency!
Petrol-free transport not in the cards for you? Taking other measures such asboycotting plastic (as mentioned above) is another great way to reduce our use and contribute to healthier lifestyles!
Spread the Word!
Last but certainly not least - be an advocate for change!
The more people who make small changes there are, the bigger impact we can have. This doesn’t mean you (or the people you encourage) have to be doing it all perfectly.
Remember, the impact of 1000 people making ‘imperfect efforts’ is far greater than 10 who are doing it ‘perfectly’. So tell your friends, tell your neighbours, and share this article with anyone you’d love to help get in the know!
Change, Not Climate Change
Now that you know the good, the bad, and the ugly of climate change, you can take action for a better tomorrow!
What changes are you making (big or small) to protect our planet? Drop a comment below to let us know and don’t forget to share this post with your planet-loving pals!