What is climate change?

Every time we flick a light switch, turn on the television or just take a shower, were are consuming energy.

Do you know how energy is produced?

Burning so-called fossil fuels (coal, oil or gas). All the gas produced (and it is quite a large amount) ends up in the atmosphere and forms a layer that produces the well-known greenhouse effect. The result is climate change, causing an increase in temperature of our planet.
Therefore, all human beings are increasingly influencing the climate and the temperature of the earth. But not only by burning coal, oil and gas, which produces gases that are harmful for the atmosphere.

FOREST CLEARANCE (DEFORESTATION)

Trees help regulate the climate by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. Therefore, when they are cut down, their beneficial effect is lost and the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, which adds to the greenhouse effect.

INCREASES IN LIVESTOCK

Cows and sheep produce large amounts of methane when they digest their food.

FERTILIZERS

Fertilizers that contain nitrogen produce nitrous oxide emissions.

FLUORINATED GASES

Fluorinated gases have a very strong warming effect: up to 23,000 times higher than CO2.

GREENHOUSE GASES

This adds huge amounts of greenhouse gases to those occurring naturally in the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and global warming.

What are the consequences of climate change?

An increase in global temperature

Extreme weather can have gradual consequences, such as increased food shortages and  water crisis, especially in less developed countries; health risks caused by the increase in air temperature and heat waves; an increase in pests and pathogens and a loss of biodiversity (since only a few species can adapt to the rapid increase in temperature).

Health risks

The increase in temperature, together with other factors such as changes in rainfall patterns, is significantly modifying the geographical distribution of bats, mosquitoes, ticks and other infectious diseases vectors in many areas of the world. As a result, diseases such as dengue, which is transmitted through mosquito bites, are appearing in regions where previously there were no cases. Recently, the first autochthonous cases of dengue have been reported in European countries. Something similar can be said about Zika, chikungunya or West Nile fever.

Extreme events

In 2018, the severe effects of the increase in global temperatures were felt in all regions of the planet through extreme weather events and natural disasters. Hurricanes Florence and Michael caused significant damage in the United States, while in California the worst wildfires in history were recorded. In the Pacific, typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu lashed the islands of the Philippines, Guam, southern China and the Mariana Islands. Europe experienced record temperatures of both cold and heat. In Latin America, Argentina and Uruguay suffered severe droughts. However, floods were the most devastating natural disasters in 2018, with reports coming from all over the world: North Korea, Nigeria, Japan and Indonesia are some examples. All these catastrophes have been particularly deadly. According to data from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, in 2018, approximately 5,000 people died and 28.9 million needed emergency assistance or humanitarian aid due to extreme weather.

 

Climate migrations

64 million people in the world have been forced to move as a result of climate change. Droughts and the advance of desertification, as well as the lack of crops, torrential rains, the alteration of seasons and extreme temperatures are just some of the reasons that trigger this type of migration.

Depletion of raw materials

Imagine what 41,000 skyscrapers just like the Empire State Building would weigh. Well, that is exactly what we extracted from our planet, in raw materials, last year alone. In other words, more than 60,000 million tons. It could almost double in a decade. To give you an idea of the magnitude: today, we demand from the Earth 50% more resources than just 30 years ago. By the end of this century, we would need more than three planets to maintain our lifestyle, if we take into account that we will be nearing 10 billion inhabitants.

It is the main health risk in Europe.

It reduces life expectancy and contributes to the onset of respiratory and heart diseases, as well as cancer.

But pollution in cities is not just in the air; in the most polluted cities (that is, almost any capital in the world), the first rainfall, especially after a long period of drought, generates flows of water that are more polluted than our wastewater, as they pick up atmospheric microparticles. In some cities, pollution comes from the water along the coasts. For example, several environmental associations have reported that the dolphins of the Guanabara Bay, in Rio de Janeiro, are at risk of extinction due to this problem.

Urban wildlife also suffers due to excess pollution. Among the most striking examples are sparrows; in the last three decades, 63% of this species has disappeared in Europe.

Urban pollution is increasing at such a speed that it often outpaces the effects of anti-pollution measures.

Measures are being taken in Europe, such as starting to ban diesel boilers. The ideal solution is to replace them with a heating system and energy supply in general that come from sustainable sources, such as solar or wind power.

 

Air pollution in cities produces eight times more deaths per year than traffic accidents.

Many other big cities in the world have been working for a while to purify the air of their urban centers.

Here are some examples

Vancouver

CANADA

The Canadian city has declared its intention to be the greenest in the world by 2020. They’ve been working on this for a while; way back in 2009, City Hall created a team of experts to find solutions. Some of these include making new buildings carbon neutral, and ensuring that at least 51% of daily trips are made by bicycle, on foot or by public transportation. There has also been a proposal for all the city’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2050.

Mexico City

MEXICO

The most populated city in the world has severe pollution problems, but City Hall is already taking action. Last year, more stringent limitations were set on the emissions of new cars with diesel engines. In addition, the city has already announced that they will prohibit the circulation of this type of vehicle through the capital in 2025.

Los Angeles

USA

This is one of the most polluted cities in the United States, due in large part to the fact that the vast majority of journeys are made in combustion engine vehicles. For several years, City Hall has set many goals to solve this problem, based on technology, renewable energy and green spaces, as well as a definitive boost for electric mobility. If it follows its plan to the letter, the Californian city will reduce greenhouse gases by 80%.

 

Berlin

GERMANY

Berlin City Hall has a system similar to that of central Madrid, but in this case it has been in operation for ten years. Since 2008, downtown Berlin has been an environmental zone, although its measures are less drastic than those in Madrid. Access to this zone has not been limited to those residing in it, but cars that do not meet emission standards may not enter.

It works with colored stickers that identify each car according to how much it pollutes. Cars with a green plate can circulate through the center without fear of receiving a ticket, while a yellow or red plate means they will have to park outside the traffic-decongestion area and use public transportation instead.

 

Paris

FRANCE

The registration of electric cars has skyrocketed, there are more and more bike lanes and City Hall has significantly improved the public transportation network compared to the previous decade.

Since July 2016, the most polluting cars cannot be used from 8:00 in the morning to 8:00 in the afternoon on weekdays. These are personal vehicles registered before 1997, commercial transportation vehicles registered before October 1997 and motorcycles registered before 1999.

Paris also encourages car-sharing; there is financial aid from City Hall that reduces the fare for Car2Go by up to 50%. The car-sharing fleet is made up entirely of electric cars.

 

London

ENGLAND

City Hall has decided to hit the average citizen where it hurts the most: the wallet. Its system is called “congestion charges”: whoever wants to access the downtown area by car during the day must pay a toll of 11.50 pounds (or about 13 euros).

People with electric or hybrid cars are entitled to discounts, and vice versa; those who drive the highest-polluting cars pay up to 24 euros because they have to add a toxin tax to the base price.

Madrid

SPAIN

Sometimes you have to really step on the gas pedal. In a metaphorical sense, of course, because one of the most urgent measures is to clear city centers of combustion engine cars. One example is Madrid Centro, a low-emission zone that restricts traffic in the central district of Madrid to residents, ambulances and public service vehicles. In the few months that Madrid Centro has been active, air pollution has decreased by 20%, as indicated by the NGO Ecologists in Action

RENEWABLES

The world is moving in a clear direction: to replace polluting energy sources with renewable ones.

Why

RENEWABLES

?

Economy

The benefits of  CO2 reductions due to wind power by 2050 are estimated at 386 billion dollars (reduced social cost).

They are profitable

Until recently, there was a belief that obtaining electricity from a solar panel or a wind turbine was more expensive than doing so in the traditional way, even if the latter caused pollution. Not only are we going to pull this statement apart, but we’re also going to explain why being environmentally aware is actually more profitable.

The concept of “green growth” can mean many things, but it is increasingly applied to just one: profitability. A company responsible for the environment is not just respectful of society; it also earns more money than it would if it were not. There are many reasons for this. When resources are optimized, for example, to consume less raw materials, costs are saved in the long run. This is further accentuated if recycling techniques are employed. Another key to this profitability is energy savings.

When a company invests, for example, in insulating its offices better in order to use less air conditioning and heating, it is not only reducing the CO2 it emits into the atmosphere, but also reducing its electricity bill.

A study by the University of Finland states that if Europe were 100% renewable, it would spend less on energy than it does now. One of the reasons to aim for this is that if we were to have a clean energy system fully implemented in Europe, in which the various sources are combined, the cost would not only be reduced, but also fully stable. Plus, there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises when the electricity bill arrives.

In addition, there would be more work for everyone; although the disappearance of coal would mean a loss of 800,000 jobs in Europe, renewables would generate around three million jobs.

Health

Air pollution will become the main environmentaL cause of early death in the world.

In a Sustainable Scenario, renewable energy could save up to 4 million lives a year and reduce mortality.

DID YOU KNOW...

Air pollution in cities produces eight times more deaths per year than traffic accidents.

Water

Wind energy could save up to 16 billion cubic metres of water by 2030

(equivalent to about 15% of the water of the Dead Sea)

In Europe alone, it would avoid the use of 1.571 billion cubic meters of water (equivalent to the consumption of 13 million households in the EU). Forty percent of the world population is affected by severe hydric stress conditions, and this is expected to increase. Wind and solar energy, which has one of the lowest water consumption footprints, will help reduce water consumption, reducing the use of nuclear power quotas and thermal coal plants.

100% renewable cities

More than 100 cities have already managed to be 100% renewable, and several others are almost ready to join them.

Basel in Switzerland, Reykjavik in Iceland and Burlington in the United States are among the 100 places that have managed to run only on clean energy (also called green or renewable energy), which comes from sources such as the sun, air, sea and biomass and is replacing coal and oil—the main cause of greenhouse gases. Some countries are also going to surpass the 2050 Agenda. One of them is Costa Rica, which in 2017 announced that it will be 100% renewable in 2021, thanks to its water resources. The three and a half million inhabitants of Uruguay are also taking that path. Their heavy investments in infrastructure allow them to benefit from the energy produced by their strong winds and mighty rivers. In Iceland, 85% of households are already heated by the geothermal energy of volcanoes.

The power of technology

The Agenda for Sustainable Development, better know as the 2030 Agenda, was approved in 2015.

It has established a series of global commandments that aim to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. A set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been ratified by major world leaders, recognizing the great transformative power created by the pairing of technology and renewable energy sources. Technology is changing the world at a dizzying pace and, when used responsibly, offers a range of possibilities to create a better planet. According to the World Future Council, new advances in energy storage, increasing the capacity of wind farms and solar panels, etc., will make renewables 50% more efficient by 2050. This means that if that technology were available today, with the same situation as we have now, we would produce much more energy. The good news? These technologies are not just around the corner; some are already being applied.

 

Renewables: An unstoppable trend

The prestigious World Future Council assures us in a study that the popularity of green is already massive and will continue to grow.

Millions of people use them to light or heat their homes, and this trend will only get stronger. What’s more, this is not happening exclusively in developed countries. According to the Economic Community of West African States, renewables are the way forward for the 500 million people living in Africa without electricity. This is not just a matter of environmental justice—it’s also about social justice.

THE FUTURE OF THE PLANET
IS IN OUR HANDS

We should have taken drastic measures two decades ago, not now, when we are closer than ever to a point of no return.

The good news is that we have not yet reached that point. And according to the scientific community, it’s still possible to reverse this situation. Although we have to fight on several fronts, the most pressing issue is the reduction of greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, as they’re the ones that cause an increase in temperature.

The world is moving in a clear direction: to replace polluting energy sources with renewable ones. This is included in the Paris Agreement, signed by practically every country in the world, which entails a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by at least half by 2050. It’s the only way to prevent the global temperature from rising by more than 1.5 degrees in this century, which would have devastating consequences for the planet. Today, no one doubts that the only way to achieve this is to replace coal and fossil fuels in general (the greatest generators of CO2) with clean alternatives, such as solar, wind and hydraulic power, or biofuels. The industry will effectively destroy itself if it does not contribute to this effort.

 

IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY

This is not just a matter for politicians, we must also contribute to the effort in our daily lives.

small everyday actions are decisive for the planet.

It's as simple as choosing what you buy, and what you don’t. Or using less plastic. Or using renewable energy. Or using public transportation more often. In short, always going for the most sustainable option. As a consumer, you have the power to save the planet.

Recycling

PLASTICS

Recycling, for example, reduces the amount of plastic that goes to landfills and the harmful gases released by burning this waste. Plastic is one of the biggest environmental problems today; there are already islands of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean that are the size of France, Spain and the United Kingdom combined. A plastic bag has an average usage time of between 12 and 20 minutes, but it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Imagine what you would do for the planet by not using it, or at least by recycling it correctly.

GLASS

When you recycle a glass bottle, you save the energy required for its manufacture. With that energy, a light bulb could provide light for about eight hours.

PAPER

If you recycle paper, you reduce your water consumption by up to 86%.

No abuse of meat products.

Believe it or not, this also helps to reduce the temperature of the planet. The methane released in cows’ farts accounts for 36% of the total amount of this gas emitted into the atmosphere. We have to address these issues too if we want to avoid a rise in temperature.

USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The way of move around also has consequences

Using the bus means that up to 30 less cars will be used, which prevents millions of tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. Public transportation is one of the keys to the fight against climate change.

DID YOU KNOW...

Air pollution in cities produces eight times more deaths  per year than traffic accidents.

ELECTRICAL CONSUMPTION

you can turn on the heating or switch on a light without CREATING ANY POLLUTION. 

As consumers, we can also give a boost to the energy transition, which is one of the cornerstones of the campaign to reduce global warming. We have more options now than ever.

CONTRACT RENEWABLE ENERGY

It’s as simple as committing to a company that guarantees that the electricity supplied to our homes comes from renewable sources.

Or opt for producing your own energy

For example, you can install solar panels on the roof of your home. All of this is already happening, and it’s unstoppable.

THIS IS HAPPENING, AND IT´S ALREADY UNSTOPPABLE

This is demonstrated by the increased use in wind and solar energy, whose costs are not only comparable to more traditional sources from fossil fuels, but also exceed them in competitiveness.

This is due in large part to the fact that more and more governments around the world are encouraging the development of renewables to diversify their energy sources, contributing to a more sustainable future. All other green sources follow the same trend. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the installed capacity for hydraulic energy has increased by 54% since 2000.

For wind power, this figure is 2,000%. Solar energy now has 18,000 times more installed capacity than it did at the beginning of the last decade.

 

For wind power, 2,000%. Solar energy has shot up to 18,000 times more installed capacity than at the beginning of the last decade.

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