The Real Cause of Climate Change: Why Turning Off the A/C Won't Save Us
While I am a big advocate for sustainability and doing our part, in little ways, to not make the Earth a more polluted place, climate change is real, and turning down the air conditioner to use less energy is just not enough to combat it. This is not me saying to use more plastic straws (use reusable straws when you can please) or to use more energy than necessary. However, it is time we address the real causes of climate change.
Climate change is the long-term change in the average weather patterns that define Earth’s local, regional, and global climates. Scientists use observations from the ground, air, and space, as well as theoretical models, to study climate change over time. Climate data records provide evidence of climate change key indicators such as global and ocean temperature increases, rising sea levels, and frequency and severity changes in extreme weather such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and precipitation. Many scientists agree Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any other point in modern history primarily as a result of human activities.
If you need proof of climate change, let’s discuss how the past decade was the hottest ever on record. The year 2020 was 1.2°C hotter than the average year in the 19th century and in Europe it was the hottest year ever. Additionally, the effects of climate change are evident in many ways. In June 2020, the temperature reached 38°C in eastern Siberia, the hottest ever recorded within the Arctic Circle. According to the BBC, “the heatwave accelerated the melting of sea ice in the East Siberian and Laptev seas and delayed the usual Arctic freeze for two months.”Furthermore, since 1990, the world has lost 690,000 square miles of forest and, given the vital role trees play in curbing global warming and therefore climate change, it’s concerning that forest areas continue to decline.
Human activities most significantly contribute to climate change. During the last century, the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This, along with other actions by humans, has increased the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Additionally, everybody has a carbon footprint that measures the total amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, that are generated by our actions. In the United States, the average carbon footprint for a person is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world, and to have the best chance of avoiding a continued rise in global temperatures, the global footprint per year needs to drop to 2 tons.
Even though we all need to lower our carbon footprints, according to the Popular Science article, “Are billionaires bad for the environment?,” billionaires have carbon footprints that can be thousands of times higher than those of the average American. The wealthy tend to own yachts, planes, and multiple mansions that contribute to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A superyacht with a permanent crew, helicopter pad, submarines, and pools, reportedly emits about 7000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, therefore, making it one of the worst assets to own from an environmental point of view. For example, Roman Abramovich, a billionaire who made a majority of his fortune trading oil and gas, was one of the biggest polluters identified by Popular Science. With a superyacht, multiple private jets, and multiple mansions, he is estimated to have been responsible for at least 33,859 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2018.
Currently, the carbon footprint of billionaires is only getting worse, especially with some of them now getting the chance to go into space. July 2021 marked the beginning of commercial space travel with the launch of billionaire Richard Branson into space. While this was happening, the Death Valley reached 130°F, the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth. So, as climate change accelerates on the planet, the people who are contributing most are able to explore options away from Earth as the rest of us suffer through severe heat waves this summer. As billion-dollar companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, charge $250,000 to $28 million for tickets to space as an attempt to “revolutionize space tourism,” the funds could be used to help reduce climate change. Various companies, including SpaceX, have spent millions of dollars to lobby the federal government and convince Washington politicians to clear the way for the space tourism industry. This is money that could’ve been contributed to decreasing climate change instead of contributing to it further.
We all need to do our part to combat carbon change but it is time to wake up. For real change to happen, actions need to be taken by billionaires to reduce their carbon footprint and implement green alternatives in their billion-dollar companies as well. While we have all taken part, they are the biggest contributors to climate change and we need to do our part not just by using less energy as individuals, but by also speaking up, taking action against billionaires and politicians who continue to shift responsibility or ignore the problem.
Featured Imaged Via Markus Spiske