What is Climate Change?
Climate change is a hot topic for our country right now. While the vast majority of the scientific community agrees that humans are having an impact on our planet, there are still some who remain skeptical that it exists and is a problem worth solving. Those paying close attention are convinced we need to reduce our impact on the planet because we can already see drastic changes to the landscape of our continents. CNN reported recently that Antarctica’s melting ice will likely lead to changes in winter storms for North America and Europe. Winter storms may be warmer and less frequent. More compelling evidence of climate change seems to unfold on a weekly basis.
Climate Change Defined
Climate change is simple to understand. It is a long-term change in global or regional climate patterns due to increased atmospheric temperatures. Our world is getting warmer because greenhouse gases are trapping the sun’s heat in our atmosphere for longer periods of time, intensified by anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change fueled by various forms of industrialization that have far-reaching impacts. Snowcaps in the Arctic and Antarctic regions are melting, which causes sea levels to rise, and consequently our winter and summer storm cycles are changing.
Climate Change in California: Cause and Effect
California, like any society or economy, contributes to climate change by producing greenhouse gases. California cattle ranches produce manure, which emits methane gas. California’s automobiles produce carbon dioxide gas. Landfilled organic waste also emits methane gas. We have many stationary and mobile sources of greenhouse gasses.
Global climate change has affected California’s environment in several ways. First, irregular weather patterns have contributed to our most recent drought. Less snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and less rainfall in the valleys strain agricultural farming resources and residential water supplies. Farmlands are thirsty for water. Californians are encouraged to let their green lawns fade to gold and to take shorter showers. Additionally, drought seasons often result in higher-risk fire seasons. Dry trees are perfect tinderboxes for forest fires.
What Are Greenhouse Gases?
A greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs infrared radiation and radiates heat in all directions, which causes the earth’s temperature to rise. It essentially traps heat within our atmosphere. Common greenhouse gases include methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas, and it stays in the atmosphere for a long time. We produce carbon dioxide when we drive cars, use electricity, or use industrial manufacturing methods. Carbon naturally moves through the earth via the carbon cycle, but we are currently producing carbon faster than we are able to remove or sequester it. Methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere, but is much more powerful than CO2 – about 70 times more potent. A significant source of methane are the state’s landfills where, due to lack of sufficient oxygen, green waste is unable to compost and generates methane as it decomposes.
How We Create Greenhouse Emissions
Greenhouse gases are the result of an industrialized world that relies upon fossil fuels to make products and transport us from here to there. We know that using public transportation and driving hybrid cars help reduce greenhouse gas We can reduce our impact on the planet by reducing the amount of trash we produce.
Californians dispose an average of 4.7 pounds of trash per person per day. California has set a goal of recycling 75 percent of trash by 2020. A significant portion of this will be organic materials responsible for accelerating climate change when landfilled. We can divert 75 percent of our current waste, and slow the harmful effects of greenhouse gases, by reducing the amount of trash we produce, reusing the materials and products we consume, and diverting the majority of our waste into recycling or composting activities instead of dumping it in the ground.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- If you had to reduce your daily waste by 75 percent, what could you do differently?
- Do you use a lot of plastic bags for packed lunches? Consider changing to reusable containers or recyclable materials like parchment paper.
- Consider diverting your food waste into a green waste bin or into a personal composting bin. Compost will enrich your garden’s soil and is good for the environment.