There’s something about the topic of Climate Change that makes me feel immediately out of my depth. It all seems so complex and beyond me - a problem I can’t quite see the edges of.
There are so many interweaving tentacles coming at us too; from warming global temperatures, floating islands of plastic, wildlife facing extinction and dying coral reefs. It can leave us feeling confused and helpless. I’m probably not alone when I admit that I struggle to know where to start first!
But one thing I do know – doing nothing won’t help! Nor will feeling paralyzed by the enormity of the situation. I must find a way to be part of the solution, even in a very small way, and turn helplessness and uncertainty into positive ACTION. We all must.
So this blog is all about identifying the positive ACTION we can all take. I'm about awareness, not guilt, here in Nature Days so take some positive tips away from this post and leave the guilty feelings behind! Find the Nature Days 17 Tips to Shrink your Carbon Footprint here.
So, what’s going on with the world’s climate?
For those of you wanting a good intro into the basics of Climate Change for children, check out Naturedays | Kids PLANET | Learn. It’s actually pretty good for adults too, but if you prefer the more grown up version, you will find information here Climate change | Environmental Protection Agency (epa.ie) or What Is Climate Change? | United Nations.
In the meantime, here's my own bite sized summary:
Apparently, Climate Change happens naturally on Earth but scientists have found that human actions over the last century or more have caused the acceleration of this natural process. Global climates are now changing because of an increase in temperatures worldwide. This increasing temperature is upsetting the natural balance of life on Earth in many regions, from polar ice caps to deserts, and at this point it’s starting to impact us here in Ireland too.
But how did this happen?
Fossils fuels like oil, gas, coal and peat, have been used extensively around the world to create energy (or power). However, burning these fuels in huge quantities also released gases into the atmosphere – like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Although these gases exist naturally in the air, it now seems there’s an excess build up which has begun to upset the balance in our atmosphere.
It’s like these greenhouse gases create a thick blanket around the Earth. According to the scientists, this blanket traps the sun’s heat rays close to the surface of the earth instead of letting them bounce back out into space as happened naturally before. This is what is causing the global temperature to rise.
Added to the fossil fuel problem, is the belching cow conundrum. Apparently, farm livestock like cattle, sheep and pigs release polluting methane gas into the atmosphere as they digest their food. This would not be such a problem if it weren’t for the enormous stock of farm animals on Earth these days, now estimated at over 70 billion head. To put this another way, approximately 60% of all mammals on Earth are domesticated animals, and we humans make up the remaining 36% 60% of All Mammals on Earth Are Livestock, Says New Study (livekindly.co). That means only 4% of all living mammals on Earth are wild animals! And the production of red meat and dairy has been shown in studies to be many times more polluting than the production fruit and vegetable crops. Eat less meat: UN climate-change report calls for change to human diet (nature.com)
Nature under attack
Added to these major polluters, Nature’s healing processes are being undermined. Natural absorbers or “sinks” for greenhouse gases have been reduced significantly by human activity. Huge areas of forest are cleared across the world to make way for farming, extensive seagrass beds are damaged by human activity and warmer oceans, and native peatlands and bogs have been cut back. While we continue to pump more harmful gases into the atmosphere, we simultaneously bind Nature’s hands in its ability to soak the gases back up.
What is the world doing about Climate Change right now – The Paris Agreement
Scientists could see the Climate Change problem worsening and they have been trying to get the attention of the public and governments for decades.
The world finally came together in 2015 to establish the Paris Agreement, The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC, the first internationally binding agreement between countries to set targets to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
As a result, the 197 countries who have now signed the agreement have collectively set a target to halt global warming at a maximum 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels. Each country, including Ireland, must significantly reduce it's own emissions as part of this target.
Based on latest results, Ireland is failing miserably in its efforts. Ireland had only reached a 7% reduction in emissions by 2020, missing the 20% target agreed within the EU by over 12%. Indicators / targets | Environmental Protection Agency (epa.ie). And when it fails to meet these targets, Ireland will pay heave fines, which trickle down to all of our pockets in the end.
What happened on 9th August 2021?
On 9th August 2021, a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (ipcc.ch) hijacked the world’s attention with stark and damning findings.
The report reviewed all the latest scientific findings to date and confirmed Climate Change is widespread and accelerating faster than previously thought. The report was a wake-up call to the world leaders and every single one of us that the window for action is fast shrinking:
“unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees will be beyond reach”.
All 197 member countries agreed the report and it’s findings, including the super polluters of China and USA.
The bright side is that we have this information now and it will be used in the next major global climate conference, COP26 (the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference) to be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021. This could be the last chance for global leaders to come together to stabilise our environment so watch this space!
Yes we can have an impact on Climate Change in Ireland!
We may be tempted to think the big problem is with far off countries and we have little or no control where it really matters. But the reality is very different - in Ireland have a contribution to make.
Here’s the facts:
Ireland is the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases per person in Europe. Statistics | Eurostat (europa.eu)
In Ireland, household emissions are actually higher than industry so what we do in our households will make a major difference to the environment. CO2 Emissions | Energy Statistics In Ireland | SEAI
Agriculture is such a big industry for Ireland that our emissions from agriculture, in particular methane, are much higher than in other comparable EU countries also. Farming policies in Ireland by successive governments have led us to where we are now as one of the biggest agricultural polluters in Europe. However, farmers themselves have just as much concern for Nature and the environment as anyone and will contribute considerably to helping Ireland out of this situation. Ireland has a key role to play by reducing agricultural emissions.
Read on to find ways to reduce your carbon emissions, starting today! Nature Days 17 Tips to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
Your Carbon Footprint
So how can we make a difference?
"A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions." Nature.Org
Knowing your carbon footprint can help highlight the areas of your life in which to make changes to help the environment. Start small, one thing at a time, and gradually work towards improving your carbon footprint in areas like energy use, transport, food and waste.
To find out how you or your family are doing right now, click on the link WWF Footprint Calculator.
Positive Actions- Within My Reach
I believe in trying to make changes that are Within My Reach. I can't control what big corporations, governments or other people do. But I can make improvements in my own life for the sake of the environment and trust everyone else will do their share too.
I'm not saying that our government and world leaders have no responsibilities. On the contrary, they have enormous responsibility to help us all lead a life with a low impact on our planet. But I don't believe we should wait around for them to act. In the meantime, do your own share, in your home and life, and in your local community. History has shown that it is the ordinary people who make the biggest difference to our world - with Climate Change it will be no different.
We all want to live our lives today in a way that won't cost a heavy price in the future. Taking the following actions now will help us all live a life more in balance with the needs of our environment and planet.
1. Households & Energy production
🌱 Switch to a 100% renewable electricity provider
🌱 Reduce Energy Waste in your Home
🌱 Retrofit your home to improve energy efficiency using SEAI Grants
🌱 Help relatives, and friends, to switch and retrofit their homes too - Energy Efficient & Warm Home Grants | Home Energy Grants | SEAI This Free Upgrade Grant is available to many, including people in receipt of the state non contributory pension.
❗ Why are these ACTIONS important:
Energy for our own homes, together with manufacturing electricity, accounts for over 25% of the national emissions. And the good news is that this is an area of emissions in Ireland that is declining in recent years. Householders are using more renewable energy, and wasting less energy in their homes, and this is making a difference for the environment.
So we can take heart that what we do in our households makes a real difference and is actually leading the way compared to other sectors like transport and agriculture at the moment. Residential | Environmental Protection Agency (epa.ie)
🌱 Drive Less - car pool, cycle, walk or use public transport more
🌱 Start to leave the car at home for some accessible, local, trips
🌱 Consider an electric car or Hybrid - Use SEAI grants
🌱 Electric Car Rebates & Grant Amounts | EV Grants | SEAI
🌱 Car pool within the family, or with flat-mates, to reduce car journeys
❗ Why are these ACTIONS important?
You’d be forgiven for assuming that air travel was the big culprit here but land-based travel is the main source of the 40% transport emissions in Ireland, with passenger travel making up the majority CO2 Emissions | Energy Statistics In Ireland | SEAI.
Transport is a big issue in Ireland for many reasons. Our love affair with car ownership is as engrained as our love affair with home ownership. Many houses now sit with at least two cars on the drive, and that can increase to four or five depending on the size of the family. And the public transport system does not give people the option to leave the car at home for most journeys.
The bad news is that emissions from transport continue to rise. In general, emissions from transport are tied to how well the economy is performing. So, the more well off we all are, the more we use our cars, the more fuel we buy, the more cars we buy, and this all pushes up emissions.
The good news is that we again can have a major influence with our own actions.
🌱 Reduce meat & dairy consumption one or two days per week
🌱 Reduce meat portion size and supplement with vegetables and grains
🌱 You can go further and become vegetarian or vegan if that suits you
🌱 Support farmers as they change their way of working
❗ Why are these ACTIONS important?
Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture account for over 35% of Ireland’s total emissions Agriculture | Environmental Protection Agency (epa.ie). That makes the agricultural industry a major contributor to our nations greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is largely responsible for pushing up our emissions above other EU countries- cows burps again!
Unfortunately for farmers, beef production has been shown to be a huge polluter. 7 reasons why meat is bad for the environment | Greenpeace UK. And unfortunately for us all, the emissions from Agriculture are still increasing, and projected to rise into the future. As a farmers daughter, I am conflicted when it comes to agriculture but I can't overlook the impact it is having on the environment.
So I will reduce the amount of meat and dairy my family consumes. But the big picture is farm practices themselves need to change, together with government farming policies which encourage farmers into expanding their herd numbers. Farmers will need support if the climate targets are to be met.
4. Buying habits
🌱 Become aware of your shopping habits. Ask yourself - "Do I really Need this"
🌱 Reduce weekly purchases of non essential "stuff" by 2 items & save money too!
🌱 Use the Circular Economy to reuse, swap, exchange and sell unwanted stuff
🌱 Use Depop, Charity Shops, Zero Waste pages, FREEcycle or community pages
🌱 Use zero waste stores, or buy in bulk online, to reduce packaging waste
🌱 Check out Naturedays | Advice for Parents for more useful information related to shopping.
🌱 Recycle your tin, paper, plastic, glass and food. Take care to wash and dry your containers so that they can be recycled properly by the recycling plant. Otherwise, if they are contaminated, they end up in the general waste anyway. Why is clean dry and loose so important? | Repak
❗ Why are these ACTIONs important?
Within a few short generations, we have moved from a society where nothing was wasted and everything was fully used, reused and repaired, to a fast consuming, throw away society. We are at the point where our over consumption has spilled over into having a devastating impact on the world around us.
The pandemic may have tipped us all into an online shopping frenzy, but now is the time to step back and think about the hidden cost to the environment. I’m not saying we have to lose all the fun and joy in our lives, but even if we cut back by 10% on the non essential stuff we buy each week, it would have a huge collective benefit to the environment.
And shopping local really helps too - using local butchers, local farm produce like egg vending machines, potatoes & veg, together with farmers markets, all help reduce the carbon footprint of the food we eat. Supporting supermarkets that sell Irish produce also makes a difference as it reduces the transport emissions involved in getting the food onto the shelves.
And finally. . getting back to Nature
Getting in touch with Nature, looking after your own patch and noticing the natural world around you, is as good an action as any to get started. Because Nature is the key to life. If we step back and give it just a little more room, it will replenish itself with ease. And we will never regret taking the time to tread a little more lightly on this Earth 🌻. Naturedays | HELP YOUR PLANET