And 5 Things We Can Do To Fight It
Climate change due to greenhouse gases has been predicted for decades now by scientists, and we are starting to see the real-time effects of hotter global temperatures. Climate change is by no means a new idea – Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius predicted in 1896 that rising carbon dioxide levels could result in the Earth’s temperature rising, due to the ‘greenhouse effect’. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases absorb heat and prevent it from leaving Earth’s atmosphere.
We do need some carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it helps to keep the surface of the planet warm enough to sustain life as we know it. But too much would lead to higher temperatures and other unwanted effects like ocean acidification, droughts, and flooding. Many things we have become used to could be gone forever due to these changes in our environment.
These iconic apex predators of the Arctic need to eat large amounts, mostly seal fat, to maintain their energy levels. Unlike other bears, polar bears do not hibernate. Instead, they do most of their eating during the winter, as in summer they have less food to eat.
They head to the Arctic sea ice from the mainland or islands where they spend the summer, but they have to wait longer and longer each year for the sea to freeze, and their hunting window and environment become smaller. The declining habitat of the polar bear will force them closer to human settlements, where polar bears have already been seen scavenging in bins for food. Oil drilling and other industrial activities further cut into the polar bear’s habitat.
Polar bears are already classified as a ‘threatened’ species, and if we lose them completely, this will cause the seal population to rise, which in turn would reduce the population of fish and other sea creatures.
Solutions: We can all take responsibility for cutting carbon emissions by using cars less and taking public transport, cycling, or walking where possible, and choosing products that have less of an impact on the environment. Check out our blog post for more tips on reducing your carbon footprint.
Ocean acidification is a little-known effect of climate change. Basically, carbon dioxide dissolves into the oceans, which produces carbonic acid, lowering the pH of the water. This change affects clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, and lobsters and their ability to form protective shells, leading to lower populations of all of these creatures.
Solutions: Planting more marine plants like kelp and seagrass could be a way of mitigating these effects, as they can absorb the extra CO2 just like plants and trees do on land.
Sadly, the effects of climate change on coffee production have already been studied and well documented. Coffee is grown in an area known as the ‘Bean Belt’, which encompasses Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. These Equatorial regions have suffered effects of climate change including temperature fluctuations from extreme heat to cold.
Other threats to coffee plants include the devastating leaf rust fungus, which proliferates easily in high temperatures. This is not good for coffee plants and predictions indicate that coffee production could fall by as much as 50% by 2050. Coffee itself does contribute to climate change via deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution.
Solutions: Choose shade-grown coffee which is grown under the tree canopy. This takes longer but does not contribute to deforestation and can even result in a smoother, less acidic brew. Always go for low-carbon, fairly traded, organic coffee wherever possible. Reusable coffee pods are actually quite good as fewer coffee beans are used per cup.
Much like coffee, chocolate is only grown in equatorial regions like the Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Ecuador, Nigeria, and Brazil. Also like coffee, climate change and its many effects threaten chocolate production and some predict that chocolate could go extinct by 2050. Many chocolate producers like Mars have recognised the devastating effects that cacao extinction could have on their industry and have in fact pledged $1 billion to fighting climate change and reducing their own carbon footprint.
Chocolate production is a heavily intensive process. Cacao beans must undergo many complicated steps to turn it into the sweet snack we all know and love. Cacao plantations and chocolate production also contribute to carbon emissions and climate change.
Solutions: Mars has actually been working with scientists to genetically modify cacao plants to make them more hardy and resistant to disease and temperature fluctuations. When buying chocolate, choose brands that are sustainable, fair trade, and carbon neutral.
This is a big one. As you know, bees contribute massively to our food production and the ecosystem as a whole. Rising temperatures have increased parasites and mites that can kill bees. Deforestation and the lack of food sources for bees have also contributed to the reduction in global bee populations. In the UK, the lack of suitable habitats for bees has caused their numbers to decline. Some species of bee are even under threat of extinction.
Solutions: Avoid using pesticides, as they can kill bees. Don’t use weedkillers as they also kill plants that bees rely on for food. Plant wildflowers to provide a handy food source for bees. Consider creating an area in your garden where wild bees can live. Check out our instructions here for making a bee hotel.
It might seem like climate change is inevitable. But while it is already occurring, there are plenty of things we can do – and are doing – to mitigate its effects. If every single person takes action in their own small way, then together, we can continue to make a difference. Consider making your own small changes by following the tips in this blog, or try carbon offsetting with us.