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Written by: Catherine Browne

Albert Einstein said in 1954 that “we shall need a substantially new way of thinking if humanity is to survive.”

This is a reality and something we need to collectively address. Limiting the impacts of human activities on the global environment is one of the defining challenges for the twenty-first century.

For one thing, climate change is real and it’s happening right now. Most of us have heard about it, many believe it’s someone else’s problem or fault, many believe it’s doom and gloom, and others deny it altogether. Then there are the few that realise that it’s up to us to make changes and do something about it.

© Philippe 2009
©Philippe 2009

COP21 is a global leader’s forum to discuss climate change mitigation planning. With this major event underway in Paris there have been numerous marches, petitions, debates and meetings by a range of forums and groupings to express their opinions and support of the need for action.

The climate of our earth has changed and continues to change, but what’s of concern is the rate of change and the impact this is having. Climate change is a modification of the earth’s broad-spectrum weather conditions of which the most prominent is the rising temperature of the earth’s surface. It also includes changes in weather patterns and events.

Nasa’s ‘Earth has a fever’ is a great clip to explain these temperature increases:

httpv://youtu.be/nAuv1R34BHA

There are natural and man-made causes leading to an intensification of the greenhouse effect.

Numerous changes resulting from climate change have already been observed in the book Climate Change, Briefings from Southern Africa, a stunning informative publication by Wits University Press that answers frequently asked questions with the latest science and in terms that everyone can understand. Examples include: average global temperature increases, rise in average global sea level, reduced snow cover in the northern hemisphere, significant increased rainfall in eastern parts of the Americas, northern Europe and central Asia, drying in the Sahel, the Mediterranean, Southern Africa and parts of southern Asia, more intense and longer droughts particularly in the tropics and subtropics.

The scientists who put together the book have also shared that South Africa currently contributes about 1.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. The average emissions per person are a little above the world average, but about double the sub-Saharan average. South Africa’s CO² emissions per unit of economic value generated are among the highest in the world. So although popular thought is that first world countries are responsible, this is not the case and everyone needs to take action.

If we do nothing, by 2100 coastal regions of South Africa will experience a rise in temperature between 3 and 4ºC, and the interior between 6 and 7ºC. This will have serious implications on biodiversity, and even commercial forestry is vulnerable because of increased frequency of wildfires and decreasing water availability. Extreme weather events are also often associated with an increase in diseases and there will be more flooding, fire, storms and drought.

The Karoo Desert in Spring © South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
The Karoo Desert in spring ©South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)

But the good news is that each and every one of us can make a difference, and through collective action and education we can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on our precious planet.

Each and every person must prioritise and actively work towards limiting their personal release of greenhouse gasses. Our planet’s future could be brighter if you are also conscious of supporting companies that commit to taking climate action and are more aware of your daily life choices.

10 ideas of how you can make a difference

1. Use water efficiently and sparingly.

2. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Recycling paper saves trees and reduces the energy used in paper manufacturing.

3. Compost.

4. Purchase green power.

Wind mills as a solution to climate change © Philippe 2009
Wind mills as a solution to climate change © Philippe 2009

5. Save electricity by turning off lights and appliances when not in use, cooking with gas and insulating your house.

6. Buy smart and switch to energy-saving light bulbs.

7. Change the way you travel – carpool, use public transport or walk.

8. Eat wisely.

9. Get informed and inform others.

10. Plant trees as trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

The Botanical Society of South Africa supports environmental education, and encourages sustainable living and passion for caring for our biodiversity and precious natural heritage. Today we challenge each and everyone to make changes in your daily lives to help climate action.

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