The climate change crisis has been steadily worsening, and now, it has become a global emergency that demands immediate attention. Rising sea levels are putting coastal communities in serious danger, while warmer oceans have drastically altered the migration patterns of fish, affecting their entire ecosystem in the process. Extreme weather events are more common than ever. If climate change is allowed to continue unchecked, it can have catastrophic results for the planet. While humans have contributed significantly to these worrying developments, they also have the power to reverse them thanks to renewable energy sources.
Causes of Climate Change
Human interference during the last 200 years is largely responsible for the Earth’s rapidly-changing climate. Greenhouse gasses are particularly worrisome. These gasses are released by coal, oil, and other fossil fuels when they are burned. They then get trapped in the atmosphere and begin warming the Earth’s surface. While a small amount of greenhouse gas is necessary to make the planet habitable, too much has proven to be dangerous. Since the Industrial Revolution began in the mid-1700s, humans have been using fossil fuels at higher and higher rates each year to power factories, cars, and other developments. As the amount of fossil fuels burned increased over this period, global temperatures did, as well.
Deforestation is also playing a large role in climate change. Experts say that cutting down trees has been responsible for 15 percent of global carbon emissions, while vehicles account for 14 percent, according to the World Carfree Network. When trees are cut down, they release the carbon they had been storing into the atmosphere, where it interacts with other greenhouse gasses to generate climate change. The problem has been increasing steadily in recent years, and the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that 32 million acres of tropical rainforest were cut down each year between 2000 and 2009.
Finally, changes in land use have changed the climate. When a rainforest is removed and replaced by crops, there is less opportunity for water to evaporate from leaves, which leads to warmer temperatures in the area. Urbanization, or the settlement of areas that were sparsely populated before, increases average temperatures due to the high concentration of people, pavement, and roofing materials. As the demand for city living has increased, humans have contributed to climate change by repurposing land and building these urban centers.
Reversing the Damage with Renewable Energy
Despite its role in causing climate change, humanity can also be part of the solution. By increasing our usage of renewable energy, we can limit the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere and begin to reverse its effects. Many communities around the world are working together to improve their renewable energy usage. Some have installed community-based power grids, which consist of freestanding, wind- or solar-powered generators that can be connected to each other to power entire cities. In California and Hawaii, government officials have promised that the entirety of each state will be powered by renewable resources by 2045. These initiatives encourage innovation and widespread adoption of renewable energy within a short period of time, which is essential when it comes to reversing climate change.
The technology industry has become particularly interested in renewable energy in recent years. As Tesla has pioneered the research and development of electric vehicles, other companies have followed suit. Consumers now have more affordable options when they purchase an electric vehicle, helping increase the number of these cars on the roads. Scientists are also hard at work to solve the problem of renewable energy storage, which had previously discouraged people from installing renewable energy generators.
Other industries, particularly those that are experiencing the effects of climate change most deeply, have committed to renewable energy usage as well. PepsiCo is increasing its usage of electric vehicles to help reduce its transportation-related emissions. Apple, meanwhile, has already reached its goal of using only renewable energy to power it business. Now, 23 of the company’s suppliers have committed to doing the same. As climate change becomes a larger concern, operators across industries are considering their role in the problem and taking steps to address it more concretely.
Contributing to the Solution
You don’t have to be an industry executive or scientist to fight climate change. Small changes in your daily habits can be enough to make an impact. Switch to renewable energy wherever possible in your life. Many utility companies offer its customers the option of receiving their electricity through renewable energy sources, and local governments sometimes offer monetary incentives for installing solar panels on homes. If you’re in the market for a new car, consider purchasing an electric vehicle. By staying up to date on the latest climate change and renewable energy news, you can become an early adopter of new technologies that combat climate change and spread awareness about these initiatives to your community.