Climate change is not a new occurrence for planet earth. Throughout its 4.54 billion years history, that’s a long one, the earth’s average temperature has fluctuated many times. In everyday language, people sometimes tend to use “climate change” and “global warming” interchangeably. When scientists talk about global warming they usually refer to human activity-based changes, while climate change encompasses human activity and natural phenomena such as ice ages.
Over the past 2000 years, the climate warmed and cooled but since the rise of the Industrial era in 1900, things only seem to get hotter. If we only go back a few months, before Covid-19 became the talk of the year, news outlets were flooded with stories about Australian fires. 2019 was the driest year to date in Australia and this definitely contributed to the spread of the fires.
On average 2019 was a year of many broken records, but probably none we should really be proud of. Australian fires, the Indian Monsoon disaster which was the deadliest weather-related of 2019, the worst heatwave France went through. Many of these occurrences were made worse by the impact of human activity.
When the Covid-19 outbreak was categorized as a pandemic and the whole world was sent inside, many thought that this would be the long-awaited break that planet earth needed to restore itself. Four months after we were all sent inside, the outcome is mixed.
According to an article on ScienceDirect, with less human activity (reduction of car usage, halting of power plants and industrial facilities) some places saw a significant improvement in the air quality. Even Beaches benefited from this. With fewer tourists around to litter, they were able to get a cleanup.
Although we decreased activity on one end, we increased it in other areas which tipped the scale in one direction rather than balancing things out. For example to prevent the spread of the disease some stores banned the use of reusable containers in favour of plastic ones. Plastic that will more than likely end up in landfills and sit under the sun for the next hundred years or so.
The need for physical distance meant that we could no longer physically do some of the things that were once normal to us, such as going out for dinner or grocery shopping. We resorted to ordering online and many of these items come heavily packaged which contributed to an increase in domestic waste.
As we are slowly allowed to go back out again and economies are going back to business, I can’t help but wonder if our emissions of greenhouse gases are going to skyrocket in order to compensate for the loss of these past months. We all need the economy to be thriving again as the livelihood of many is dependent on it, but letting our “house” crumble to do so is not the solution either.
As we can’t reasonably spend the rest of our days locked inside, in order to help restore the earth, we are in need of long-lasting changes when it comes to climate change. These past four months showed an improvement but it’s not nearly enough to clear decades of emissions trapped in our atmosphere.
(Feature Image – Instagram: @thegrnwood)