Climate Change: Raise Awareness
"Change is possible. We know that, and we can alter our relationship with the world around us to create a sustainable future."
Al Gore, Campus Earth Summit, 1995
Climate change is the significant change in weather (wind, precipitation, and temperature) over an extended period of time. Causes of climate change may be natural, but there is evidence that indicates human activities have contributed to the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, rise in sea levels, and global warming.
Global Warming is the rise in the temperature of the earth’s lowest atmosphere, called the troposphere. It is most commonly attributed to higher levels of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are chemical compounds which absorb the sun’s infrared radiation reflected back off the Earth’s surface and trap it in the atmosphere. With higher levels of greenhouse gases, more of the sun’s heat stays close to the earth’s surface, causing global warming.
Nature can create greenhouse gases, but humans have increasingly created them as well, throwing off the balance of the heat in the troposphere. Natural greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide emitted from plants, water vapor, and methane gas. Exclusively human-made greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide from powerplants and airplanes, car emissions, and gas from aerosols. Since natural and human-made gases both have greenhouse properties, it cannot be defended that solely human activity causes global warming. However, evidence indicates that the presence of these gases in the earth’s atmosphere has increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, so it is important to do what we can to prevent increased global warming.
Climate change affects everyone and everything. As the earth grows warmer and the climate begins to change, life as we know it will change as well. For example, the length of farming seasons will change, and bodies of water will decrease or disappear completely. Because of this, there will be a noticeable decline of plant and animal life on earth. An example of the effect of global warming is that as the polar icecaps melt, there will be a rise in ocean waters and sea levels. This rise in sea levels, in addition to a climate change-induced increase in the severity and frequency of natural disasters, will cause millions of people to abandon their homes in search of safety and become environmental refugees.
Since climate change induces droughts and flooding, nations will face many additional problems. When there are extreme droughts, agricultural crops can fail, and overall disease and famine will increase. When there is severe flooding, families’ sole food source can be destroyed and water-born illness, such as cholera, can increase. Families whose sole household income is based on their ability to farm will have no means of survival and poverty rates will increase. Subsequently, countries that rely on agriculture as a major source of economic development will lose income and in turn will be unable to protect and serve their communities with basic support such as schools, housing, water and food.
Though industrialized countries have impacted greatly the global climate change, it is developing nations that will suffer most as they lack the finances and resources to quickly and efficiently cope with and adapt to the changing climate.
To make matters worse, climate change will also prevent these developing nations from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The world's most vulnerable people will have their already insufficient access to drinkable water further reduced. Food security will be even more limited. Reduced food and water security will lead to poor health, while conflicts are more likely to occur and continue as people compete for the limited natural resources necessary for survival.
Immediate action is necessary to halt the effects of climate change. Developing and developed nations must join together to create and enforce policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to explore the use of renewable resources in energy production. For example, to slow down global warming, alternative transportation such as trains, buses or bicycles must be promoted by state and city-wide policies. Reduce, recycle, and reuse programs must be mandatory nationwide. Finally, manufacturers and corporations that create greenhouse pollutants, and fast food/meat industries increasing methane gases must be held accountable and forced to adhere to regulations.
Industrialized countries must also increase aid to people living in poverty for the damage that climate change has and will cause them. Nations must help build new infrastructure such as hospitals, reservoirs, and roads that are climate-proofed to prepare for climate change. The international community needs to act immediately to reverse the damage of climate change and research best practices for sustainable solutions that will benefit all nations.
Mercy Corps launched a Community Climate Initiative to assess the impact of climate change around the world and to help communities deal with the effects of global warming. Mercy Corps is identifying how vulnerable populations in developing countries -including Niger, Mongolia and Indonesia- can adapt to climate change and take advantage of job growth in new, climate-friendly economic sectors. Mercy Corps is also strengthening and expanding environmental programs, including agroforestry, ecotourism, environmental governance and natural resource management. Additionally, Mercy Corps partners with research institutions to produce data that will compel corporations and governments to implement sustainable solutions.
Finally, Mercy Corps seeks to set an example by being climate responsible. As part of a commitment to make operations carbon neutral, Mercy Corps’ global carbon footprint was recently measured. Mercy Corps’ new U.S. headquarters and educational centers focused on global poverty issues are LEED-certified green buildings.
Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth
BBC News-Global Climate Change
Pew Center on Global Climate Change Fact Sheet
The Human Toll of Climate Change
The World's Top Emitters
An Inconvenient Truth