Climate Change: What is It and What Can One Person Do?

Climate change is real, but what can you do about it? In this article I will outline some easy ways for you and your family to understand the basic issues about Climate change and take steps to reduce your impact.

According to Dr. Geoff Love, Director of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology:

Australia’s climate is changing – “I expect climate change to affect all Australians…”

Australia and the globe are experiencing rapid climate change. Since the middle of the 20th century, Australian temperatures have, on average, risen by about 1° with an increase in the frequency of heatwaves and a decrease in the numbers of frosts and cold days. Rainfall patterns have also changed – the northwest has seen an increase in rainfall over the last 50 years while much of eastern Australia and the far southwest have experienced a decline.

Climate Change Simply Explained

Our continued reliance on electricity sourced from coal-fired power stations is causing a dramatic increase in the Earth’s temperature (also known as the greenhouse effect). These changes cause many environmental impacts such as rising sea levels, an increase in freak weather events like drought and severe storms, and massive changes to the habitats that species rely on to survive.

What people like Australian Prime Minister Howard and the Herald Sun “journalist” Andrew Bolt who prevaricate, deny or dismiss the likelihood of any significant climate change in the near future don’t acknowledge are the very real negative economic impacts of climate change on their conservative big business demographic. Examples include:

Likely price rises in insurance premiums, electricity, council rates, taxes, milk, vegetables, water and petrol.

Major employers such as fishing, fashion, agriculture, wine and tourism facing significant reductions in output [or their business getting wiped out altogether]

Holiday destinations such as Kakadu, the Snowy Mountains, and The Great Barrier Reef [being] significantly altered [which would drastically reduce the income Australia earns from Tourism].

I can hear you thinking, blah blah blah … all those words don’t explain things easily enough. This is true, pictures and video often communicate an idea more easily than words so …

1. If you want to see a “serious” scientific explanation play the video trailer for Al Gore’s documentary “The Inconvenient Truth” to learn some more (above this paragraph, to the right)

2. If you’d rather see a less serious explanation play the video trailer (below this paragraph, to the right) to see an clip from the episode “Some Like It Hot” in the satirical cartoon series “Futurama” by Matt Groening, as used in Al Gore’s documentary “The Inconvenient Truth” Unfortunately Paramount Pictures removed this video from Youtube 🙁

Reviews of “The Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore and “The Weather Makers” by Dr Tim Flannery

[Al Gore] smoothly concentrates all the available evidence of the destructiveness of global warming into an easily digestible confection of memorable facts, diverting graphics and alarming projections.

Statistics are presented on charts and diagrams craftily designed to impress those of us whose eyes glaze over at the effort of having to absorb more than three numbers at a time. Cartoons, too, are used to stave off the effects of informational overload. [Such as an excerpt from the episode “Some Like It Hot” in the satirical cartoon series “Futurama” by Matt Groening. Play the Videos at right for an example]

Then just as the gloom seems impenetrable, he reminds us that it isn’t. There is still time … to act. “Political will,” he says pithily, “is a renewable resource.”
– excerpt from review by the SMH

Scientist Tim Flannery’s new book The Weather Makers is a tour de force, an exhaustive and rigorous explanation of how even modest global warming produces dramatic climate change. It starts with a history of our planet’s climate, describing how natural warming events in the past have altered Earth’s climate, and reviewing how the self-regulating systems of our ecosphere — the atmosphere, the oceans, and the ‘respirations’ of living matter — keep our planet’s climate in a precarious balance that is as beneficial as possible for all life on our planet.

What comes across in the early chapters is the astonishing fragility of this ecosystem, and the regularity with which small meteorites, volcanic eruptions and other events can throw the planet wildly out of balance and create extinctions of much of life on the planet. After such extinctions, the complex adaptive system that is our biosphere (or Gaia if you prefer), acting like a patient builder of houses of cards, re-starts the building of delicate organic balancing mechanisms, adapting to the climate changes to produce new and unpredictable forms of life that are self-sustaining and self-regulating, until the planet or the cosmos unleashes the next shock to this system.
– excerpt from review by Salon.com

[Flannery’s] skills as a writer and ability to stir up public debate are widely recognised and, here, keenly deployed … he has the ability, rare in Australia, to take complex ideas and – seemingly effortlessly – make them accessible.

Employing a broad vision of geological time, Flannery explains the mechanisms that have driven the planet’s climate.

This book captures your imagination through its extraordinary range of argument, its vivid imagery, its wealth of research, quick wit and richness of detail. It succeeds where equally worthy but more prosaic recent books have failed.
– excerpt from review by the SMH

What You Can Do About Climate Change

You can make these changes to your home and lobby for the same changes to be made at your workplace at little or no immediate cost and often with long term $$$ savings. I’ve kept the recommendations short and sweet because the benefits should be pretty obvious.

Free / Cost Saving Inititiatives

  • If you have central heating or an air conditioner, make sure you clean or replace the air filters every 6 months.
  • Set your airconditioner/heating system thermostat down 2° in winter and up 2° in summer from what you usually set. Eg: if you live in a warm area you really don’t need to set the temperature to 19/20° doing so means you’ll end up wearing more clothes to compensate and it will noticeably increase your electricity bill.
  • It takes a lot of energy to heat water. You can use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead and wash your clothes in cold water. Also use a clothesline instead of a dryer whenever possible.
  • Turn off electronic devices you’re not using at the power switch instead of leaving them on standby. Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you’re not using them will cut your carbon dioxide emissions by several tonnes/year.
  • Make sure you participate in community recycling programmes for paper and plastic products at home and work.
  • Reduce the amount of your car pollutes by walking, biking, carpooling or taking public transit wherever possible
  • Check your tires weekly to make sure they’re properly inflated. Proper inflation can improve fuel economy by more than 3% and the less fuel you use the less your car pollutes.
  • When it is time for a new car, choose a smaller more fuel efficient vehicle. Chances are that unless you drive off-road regularly or need to tow heavy loads, a people mover will provide you better fuel economy, safety and space for a large family or lots of shopping etc than a SUV/4WD vehicle.

Low Cost Inititiatives

  • Change your home electricity plan to Green Power and reduce your reliance on polluting coal powered electricity
  • Replace all the incandescent light bulbs in your home with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). They use 60% less energy than a regular bulb and last much longer as well. They are available in several shapes and sizes and you can choose whether you want ones with cold white light or soft yellow light
  • Install water efficient taps, dual flush toilets and a front-loading washing machine.
  • Choose a gas or solar power water heater system. This can significantly reduce your electricity bill and cut your carbon dioxide emissions
  • Install roof ventilation turbines. For a few hundred dollars this can really make a big difference to how hot your roof crawlspace gets and therefore how much heat it adds to the living spaces beneath. Turbine roof ventilators are wind powered so the more the wind blows the more hot air they suck out of your roof.
  • Insulate your home – Properly insulating your walls and ceilings can save 25% of your home heating/cooling bill and cut your carbon dioxide emissions by upto 1 tonne/year
  • Install a tank to capture rainwater so you don’t need to use drinking water from the mains water supply to water your garden and wash your car. Also if possible connect your plumbing to the rain water tank so it’s used to flush the toilet and you can reuse water from showers and dishwashing on the garden

Use smart “passive” design initiatives that reduce your reliance on mechanical heating/cooling systems when building a new house or renovating. The money saved on water and energy will more than cover any initial extra cost:

  • Choose lighter colours for your outside walls (bricks, cladding etc) and roofing materials. A house with a black roof and dark red bricks will absorb a lot more heat than a house with a slate grey roof and pale coloured bricks which will help to reflect heat.
  • Take advantage of natural light and the natural heating and cooling influences of the sun, breezes and vegetation by using awnings for shade and designing rooms so that natural ventilation can keep your home cool in summer.
  • Align the longest axis of your home east to west. Try to ensure the north face soaks up sunlight when you need it in Winter and can be shaded when you don’t in Summer.

If you’re really interested in Climate Change and what you can do to make a difference, I strongly recommend that you buy a copy of the “The Inconvenient Truth” documentary and watch it on DVD and read “The Weather Makers” by 2007 Australian of the Year Dr Tim Flannery

17 thoughts on “Climate Change: What is It and What Can One Person Do?”

  1. Hi Neerav,

    Thank you for your post.

    Anyone who doesn’t believe that this is on of the biggest issues facing humanity is fooling themselves.

    As you say, viewing Gore’s film and reading Flannery’s book should be enough to convince anyone with an open mind.

    I went to an interesting seminar given by Lesley Hughes (http://www.bio.mq.edu.au/piccel/hughes/)last week. Some of the stats she gave about Australian snow cover and sea level rise over the last few decades showed that global warming is not just happening at the poles.

    Sorry to be political but the sooner Howard and his team of coal-friendly environmental vandals are out of office, the better for the environment. Bring on PM Kev and ratify the Kyoto Protocol. That will put some pressure on Dubya to do the same.

    Keep up the good work,
    Mark

  2. Good tips – I think if we are environmentally conscious when we read news, watch documentaries – we are poor in changing our habits. Should try to demonstrate at the community level.

  3. Nothing will be done by talking, thinking, watching news or documentaries. Things will work is taking individual actions in our personal life and influence the other to do small things first.

  4. If we keep thinking, we can’t bring about any changes. So we need to be very much sincere otherwise in future we have to face very big losses.

  5. Congrats for your initiative, Neerav! Such posts should exist in every blog just because climate change is a too important and in the same time too neglected issue.

    I would like to add something I read on another page about environment care:
    – Don’t use/buy bottled water (water in plastic bottles). More water is used for the making of each of the bottles than the amount contained in the bottle. You can buy, install and use special filters – it’s worth the investment.

  6. This article is very informative but also helpful at the same time. You always find blog posts that are interesting to a point but go on a bit but well done for including energy saving advice that people can actually implement,

  7. One person can’t do much thing. We need all people in this world contribute their bit. So, it is always better if we can give the right message to the others.

  8. Gore gave a god speech last month that can be found on youtube that covers some new information that is pertinent to this topic. It’s worth a look up.

  9. Isn’t it a great idea to keep a programmable thermostat instead of them doing manually. and really I like your post a lot. Keep up the good work and save the energy.

  10. Great advice..especially with choosing lighter colors for the roofing materials. People don’t realize that it can make a huge difference.

  11. I’m glad that this article was made. I was enlightened on the status of our climate. and how to save and give value to our environment.

  12. This is my second visit to this blog. We are starting a brand new initiative in the same niche as this blog. Your blog provided us with important information to work on. You have done a admirable job..

  13. I couldn’t agree more- it’s so important to start making some positive changes to your lifestyle to conserve energy and contribute to the climate change solution, not the problem. Using water tanks is a great idea, and it can be pretty easy to set up solar hot water, things like that. Thanks for all the useful information- there are some really good ideas here.

  14. Good tips – I think if we are environmentally conscious when we read news, watch documentaries – we are poor in changing our habits. Should try to demonstrate at the community level.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *