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Why You Should Care About Climate Change More Than Your Tan This Summer

As spring turns to summer, common associations tend to come to mind, like bikini-clad bodies at the beach, Instagrammed pictures of music festivals and barbecuing with friends. One topic that is less spoken about but reflects the true realities of summer is that of climate change.

With heat waves endured for weeks at a time last summer and the seemingly relentless and record-breaking winter we just experienced, one must question, what is going on with this weather? Let's consider the present effects of climate change.

Late in 2013, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), an organization of scientists set up by the United Nations, released its Fifth Assessment Report” of global climatic trends recorded throughout earth's atmosphere and oceans.

Scientists who study how the Earth's climate is changing produce this report to infer what future consequences these changes might have and how our activities as the dominant species on this planet affect that change.

To sum up the thousands of pages in the report, “Assessments have already shown through multiple lines of evidence that the climate is changing across our planet, largely as a result of human activities.”

There are many issues that arise from this axiom. We have already begun to see the disturbing effects of climate change in the destruction that hurricanes, tsunamis and super storms (such as Sandy) bring.

However, this is not the whole problem, as the threat of the oceanic sea-level rising becomes greater in port cities throughout the world.

Though we may not feel the brunt of this in more developed nations, there are millions of people living in coastal cities who will feel the effects of this new reality, if they haven't already.

Furthermore, though it is hard to believe, it is unlikely that we will see many summers in the future that we regard as “mild” or “cool.”

The IPCC, as well as the World Health Organization, have identified numerous other concerns regarding climate change, such as the spread of disease due to warmer climates, famine caused by drought and extreme temperatures and a variety of other possible outcomes of changing global climate patterns.

Consider the comparison of temperature to the rise in global atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The majority of climatologists agree on the correlation between the rise of greenhouse gases (such as CO2) and that of mean global temperatures. We must think about how these rises reflect our own activities.

Thinking about this in a chronological sense is also helpful for understanding how humans are responsible for climate change. For those of us who are not particularly well versed in scientific jargon, CO2 levels are measured in parts per million (or ppm).

With this in mind, CO2 levels were around 280 ppm from 1780 until roughly 1900, when mankind embraced electricity and the explosive use of petroleum-based automobiles.

Throughout the last century, these levels have risen at an alarming rate, from about 280 ppm in 1900 to just under 320 ppm in 1950, to where we stand today: 398 parts per million.

Though this may not seem like a lot considering it's only 398 molecules out of one million, it is a massive number compared to where the Earth's natural levels were before the industrial growth of the 19th and 20th centuries.

So, we must begin to think of change in a positive direction. If we seek to be considered as a generation of free thinkers and problem solvers, I urge you to try to make a difference.

There are many ways one can help in this cause, but here are a few specific recommendations that will cut down on your environmental impact and reduce your contribution to global climate change:

1. Reduce your electricity and gas use at home.

Production and usage of electricity and oil we use to heat and power our homes is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

A few ways to cut down are to turn off and unplug appliances and electronics when they're not in use, turn off lights when not in use, turn down the thermostat in your home in colder months and minimize use of air conditioning units during the hot ones.


2. Transition to a more sustainable method of transportation.

Mass transit is one way you can do this, as trains and buses are a simple alternative to individual cars. If cars are your preference, try carpooling or investing in a hybrid vehicle.

Cars equipped with this environmentally friendly technology will not only reduce your emissions, but also get you more miles per gallon of gas you buy, which will save you money.

Another (simpler) investment is a bicycle; it will not only help your cause to spread environmental awareness, but it will also save your wallet and improve your health.


3. Be mindful of how much and how often you consume.

This might be in regard to food, clothing or appliances you purchase, but whatever it is, the principle holds true. Everything we buy feeds into a situation in which more of a product must be created and shipped.

By being mindful of how often we purchase new items, we reduce the amount of materials and energy we need for production and distribution.

Obviously, these are not the only solutions to the problem we face. However, they are ways we can become more environmentally conscious and provide a better planet for future generations.

For more information on the IPCC report, you can check out their full website and read what they have to say: here

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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Jon Lowenstein

Contributor

Jon graduated from Drew University and currently teaches on the Upper East Side. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling, trying the various cuisine New York has to offer, and going to musical events.
Jon graduated from Drew University and currently teaches on the Upper East Side. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling, trying the various cuisine New York has to offer, and going to musical events.

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