Why does living sustainably matter? On a recent trip to Norway last year, I was struck by how warm it was in Summer. I was making my way to my AirBnB via train and worried that I hadn’t packed appropriate clothes for the family. In my luggage, scarves, gloves and some thicker jackets were packed – I was expecting that a Norwegian summer would be like my Sydney winter. I was so wrong.
The weather in Oslo averaged 25 degrees each day and the locals flocked to the parks to soak in the rays. The city sparkled and you could fee the good vibes in the air. But at the same time it was unsettling. Unsettling because the realisation hit me squarely in the face that we are well and truly in the midst of global warming.
What is global warming?
By now, most us get the global warning story, but for those who need a 1min recap, here it is:
According to the WWF, global warming is caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, and farming.
When we burn fossil fuels like coal and gas to create electricity or power our cars, we release CO2 pollution into the atmosphere.
Plants play an important role in regulating the climate because they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen back into it. Forests and bushland act as carbon sinks and are a valuable means of keeping global warming to 1.5°C.
But humans clear vast areas of vegetation around the world for farming, urban and infrastructure development or to sell tree products such as timber and palm oil. When vegetation is removed or burnt, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming.
Many people use the term global warming interchangeably with climate change, however climate change is the term scientists prefer to use when describing the complex shifts affecting our planets weather and climate systems.
What are the impacts of climate change?
According to National Geographic, the impacts of Climate Change are as follows:
- Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland, and Arctic sea ice.
- Much of this melting ice contributes to sea-level rise. Global sea levels are rising 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year, and the rise is occurring at a faster rate in recent years.
- Rising temperatures are affecting wildlife and their habitats. Vanishing ice has challenged species such as the Adélie penguin in Antarctica, where some populations on the western peninsula have collapsed by 90 percent or more.
- As temperatures change, many species are on the move. Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have migrated farther north or to higher, cooler areas.
- Precipitation (rain and snowfall) has increased across the globe, on average. Yet some regions are experiencing more severe drought, increasing the risk of wildfires, lost crops, and drinking water shortages.
If warming continues, other devastating effects could take place sooner than we may think. These include:
- Sea levels are expected to rise between 10 and 32 inches (26 and 82 centimetres) or higher by the end of the century.
- Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger. Floods and droughts will become more common.
- Less freshwater will be available, since glaciers store about three-quarters of the world’s freshwater.
- Some diseases will spread, such as mosquito-borne malaria (and the 2016 resurgence of the Zika virus).
- Ecosystems will continue to change: Some species will move farther north or become more successful; others, such as polar bears, won’t be able to adapt and could become extinct.
So why does living sustainably matter?
The answer to this one is simple. We can’t maintain our quality of life, the diversity of life on earth or earth’s ecosystems if we don’t embrace it. We have no choice.
Change starts with you and me
The reality is that we don’t have control of everything and there’s no use this stuff keeping you up at night. But you know the old saying ‘for things to change, first we must’? It’s pertinent here.
You see, we have control over what we say, what we do and what we buy. We can take steps towards sustainable living and then influence others to do the same.
The wise words of Sir David Attenborough ‘How can I look my children in the eye and say I knew about this – and I did nothing?’ reminds us of our responsibility.
Will you join me in living sustainably?
Start by reading my guide on 5 easy ways to reduce waste.