Youth are the stewards of our world; people aged 15–24 comprise 16% of the world’s population. Young people, however, sometimes feel like they are unable to take action toward achieving a sustainable world. This might be due to thinking that they have comparatively little knowledge of climate change and its adverse effects on the human population. This article helps empower youths to discover and understand the ever-changing climate of environmental problems.
An Overview of Climate Change and Global Warming
What is Climate Change?
Global warming and climate change are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, “climate change” represents the long-term shift in temperatures and weather patterns, while global warming refers to an increase in the world’s overall temperatures.
A significant driver of global warming can be attributed to the high concentration of certain gases in the atmosphere. Because they trap heat within our planet, they are known collectively as “greenhouse” gases. As greenhouse gases build up in our atmosphere, the trapped heat increases temperatures over a prolonged period. This increase in average global temperatures results in climate change that is difficult to reverse.
What Causes Climate Change?
There are two primary sources of climate change:
- Burning fossil fuels. This is burning coal, gas, or oil to generate energy. To a large extent, cars, planes, boats, and trains are popular means of transportation. Transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gases, producing chemicals such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
These gases form a blanket on the atmosphere which traps heat from the sun and prevents the energy from being released back into space. The trapped heat is responsible for the high temperatures on the earth’s surface.
Most power plants also operate by burning fossil fuels, especially coal. Energy generation is responsible for roughly 40% of total carbon emissions.
- Cutting down trees. Trees make their own food through photosynthesis, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through their leaves and converting it into glucose molecules. This process also produces oxygen, which we require for respiration and survival.
When we cut trees down, they release the stored carbon and prevent them from absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As a result, deforestation contributes to roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Keeping up to Date with News
With the environment constantly changing, there are always new developments and technologies related to climate change. Therefore, we recommend obtaining information on climate change and global warming from credible sources to gain up-to-date knowledge.
For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gives updated reports on climate change information. It prepares reports that are relevant to policymakers. The reports are based on scientific assessments of climate change. You will understand potential future risks and get insight into mitigation options.
Certain news sources and organizations may have underlying motives that result in exaggerated or outright false claims about global warming and climate change. By ensuring you have a solid foundation and understanding of climate change issues, you will be well positioned to use logical reasoning and scientific thinking to assess these reports.
How Can Youths Help Mitigate Climate Change?
First, reminding yourself that your daily actions can change the world is critical. While it may be out of our power to change the behaviors of others, we can do our part to combat climate change.
Even as a young person, you have what it takes to control your own contribution to global warming and mitigate climate change on our planet. Read, be enlightened, and take action. Here are ways to bring about the desired change:
Water’s Role in the Environment
Water bodies play a crucial role in curbing climate change. Oceans generate water vapor into the atmosphere. The water vapor absorbs the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. The dissolved gases can diffuse deep into the ocean depths.
The ocean can also act like a massive sponge that absorbs atmospheric heat. The heat, just like greenhouse gases is taken to the ocean depths and stored there. This shows the importance of water bodies in reducing heat in the atmosphere.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), climate change manifests itself primarily through changes in the water cycle. An increase in global temperatures due to climate change changes the precipitation patterns.
Of course, humans (and all life on Earth) require water to survive. Hence, we should be mindful of polluting water bodies. Minimize plastic usage as they end up as ocean debris. Do not dump on beaches or interfere with corals. You can also join or support those organizations that work to protect the ocean.
Rains also become excessively heavy at times due to the high evaporation rate from global warming. This pollutes water sources as floods sweep contaminants into water bodies. Other regions receive little or no rain at all, leading to food shortages and hunger.
Reducing Water and Energy Usage
We now know the importance of conserving our clean water supplies. One benefit of reducing water usage is that we conserve energy in the process. Energy is also used to process water used in households; we reduce the amount of energy needed to process water if we use it sparingly. Different ways to minimize water usage exist:
- Do not let the tap run while brushing your teeth or shaving
- Make it a habit to take shorter showers
- Check for and repair any water leaks
- Do laundry for lots of clothes together rather than washing frequently
- Install water-efficient toilet fixtures
In many parts of the world, electricity is still primarily generated through burning fossil fuels. Hence, it makes sense to change the way we use electricity. When power is efficiently used, you reduce the amount of fuel needed for electricity generation and the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.
Turn off the lights when not needed. Use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) since they consume less energy than light bulbs. Use appliances with a high energy star rating. They may cost a little more, but they cost less to run. Cooling and heating contribute to half of our overall electricity consumption. Do not overdo it; simply maintain temperatures at a standard level.
Plant Trees to Offset your Carbon Footprint
Trees play a big role in curbing climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide gas, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. You can make tree planting one of your hobbies. Plant a tree to mark special occasions, remarkable moments, and days.
For example, you can make it a habit of planting trees equal to the number of years you turn on your birthday. Replace the culture of blowing candles with planting trees. This is a great idea, and it is also much fun.
Transport accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide. Instead of driving to work or school, change your routine to an alternate environmentally-friendlier mode of transport. This can mean walking, riding a bicycle, or using public transport. As an added benefit, these usually help you live a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Doing our Part Through Recycling
Recycling helps reduce the need to manufacture virgin materials, which have to be extracted from natural sources. Manufacturing recycled materials also uses comparative less energy.
- Do not throw away the plastic cans that carry your drink or other snacks; place them in a recycling bin
- Remove food scraps from your pizza box before disposing of them; they will be collected and recycled
- Plastic bags are recyclable, as are gift wrappers, plastic cups, containers, and glass food and beverage containers
- The list of recyclables is endless! Before you dispose of anything, consider if it can be recycled
If items are not recyclable, consider reusing or repurposing them. Those electricity gadgets that are not useful to you at the moment could be useful to other industries. Give them freely instead of throwing them away. Donate to younger kids in your neighborhood those novels and textbooks that you no longer use.
Take a scenario where everyone has given out the learning materials that are not in use to those who need them in the neighborhood. You also receive from others what is of no importance to others but valuable to you. We minimize our purchases; thus, production goes down, and we save trees that would have been cut down for paper production.
You can make your old pieces of clothing into mats, flat sheets, and cloth coverings for lampshades. Rent instead of buy clothing and other items for special occasions. For instance, events-related clothing like wedding gowns will only be worn once; purchasing a new one might be unnecessary.
Empower Others Around You!
Do this through social media platforms where you share educational points with your peers. Talk about the dangers of climate change with your parents and siblings. Read more to be well-equipped and updated on climate change. Join youth groups like Youth STEM 2030. You will then have the means and the support you need to change the mindset of a larger audience.
Together, we can change the current earth’s situation. Take the example of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish student who started the #FridaysForFuture movement at just 16. She aims to make politicians and decision-makers alarmed about climate change.
Youths are at the forefront of creating a more sustainable world. As a youth, you are also empowered to do your part. Let us take action. The entire planet is our responsibility.