Global Warming, Climate Change and the Need for Change in Human Practices

Global warming has become an issue of discussion which affects our humanities sustainability and our local as well as global ecosystem. The issue of global warming cannot be discussed without its negative effects on the environment, its causes of climate change and how this then trickles down to affecting humans. Essentially, global warming is caused by both climate change, but mainly the actions of humans and society as a whole. A brief discussion about climate change will inform this essay, then the negative effects of global warming will be described, followed by the positive changes needed in Canada, in order to defuse and reduce the risks of global warming. Solutions and recommendations to reduce the detrimental effects of global warming will be proposed, and the position will be taken, that the greatest importance is to take care of the negative consequences of global warming because we are in dire need of dealing with the damaging effects.

One the most impactful changes to the ecosystem are the forces of climate change. One of the causes of climate change is the consequence of global warming. When global warming occurs, it affects temperature and precipitation. This in turn will affect any living creature, such as fauna, vegetation, humans and all living things on the planet. When global warming happens, it causes an imbalance and various regions. Prairie ecozones will grow and forested ecozones will contract as precipitation levels fall. Furthermore, due to droughts caused in the Prairie Potholes, this then creates a reduction in population of varying species. It has been said that Thirty to fifty percent of prairie ponds will hold less water by spring 2060. This factor will in turn cause a reduction in ducks settling to breed in these usual areas. Due to the different animal cycles being disturbed, insects, animals used a prey and foods usually available for animals, will be jeopardized.

Directly related to the phenomenon of global warming, are the changes that occur in particular seasons. Spring migration is happening earlier in the year and fall migration is occurring later for many types of species. Sadly, the climate change caused by global warming then causes a plethora of extinctions. The reason for this rise in the annihilation of certain species is because many are incapable of adjusting to the rapid climate changes. One species that global warming is affecting today is polar bears. In both Canada and the U.S, polar bears are in the Endangered Species Act due to the high rate of melting ice. As a result, climate change will inevitably affect the cycle of the ecosystem, which then influences the way energy and chemicals flow through carnivores, herbivores, soil organisms and plants. Interaction between predators and prey structure the food webs, causing changing conditions in the food chain.

The cause of global warming is ultimately related to the shift in the atmosphere, caused by gases that humans are causing. Scientifically, global warming refers to an increase in the earth’s average surface temperature, one aspect of climate change. After absorbing radiation emitted from the surface, greenhouse gases subsequentially reemit infrared energy of slightly different wavelengths. Some of those gases travel back downward, warming the troposphere and the planet’s surface in a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect. Therefore, global warming refers to the ability of one molecule of a greenhouse gas to contribute to warming. Although greenhouse gases are one cause of global warming, it has been found that the most negative cause of global warming is carbon dioxide (CO2), the most potent of greenhouse gases. As Dr. Withgott mentiones “… carbon dioxide’s abundance in our emissions makes it the major anthropogenic contributor to global warming”. Another reason for the plight of global warming is the release of methane (CH4) we humans cause when raising livestock that emit methane as metabolic waste. Since 1750, atmospheric methane concentrations have risen 250%, and today’s concentration is the highest by far in more than 65, 0000 years. It has also been recorded that human activities have also augmented atmospheric concentrations of nitrous oxides. These greenhouse gases, by-products of feedlots, chemical manufacturing plants, auto emission, and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, have risen by 18%. After looking at the negative effects that climate change and global warming has on our humanity and on our earth, I decided to look into solutions that we could take individually and as a global community to decrease the effects of global warming and slow its progress.

Due to the high number of cities like Toronto that are experiencing similar situations and even worse, a discussion to propose solutions needs to occur. Here, I will be looking at varying places in Canada to identify some key actions to a healthier environment. Many cities are already experiencing environmental downfalls like pollution and smog. Hence, there needs to be sustainability plans in place to diminish the effect of city urbanization on the environment. First and foremost, the reduction of using cars is necessary. Public transportation, bikes, car pooling are all options that can reduce the density in cities and can disable negative environmental conditions like smog and pollution. Another problem that most urbanized cities face is lack of space. If the reduction of space in cities is made a priority, then we would see immediate changes in the climate of these cities. Using less land for housing and retailers will make more room for more public transit and the rejuvenation of natural land and resources. Along similar lines in reference to housing, when new buildings and urban systems are designed, they could have designs that reduce energy waste. An example of this is shown when new builders build edifices to last longer and policies need to be in place in order to encourage sustainability. Another way to reduce space is combining retail and housing into one building.

During construction, the choice of material can also make a difference. Using materials such as pravtex boards, which are made of almost 90 – 95% of waste wood that is which provides a variety of boards for different applications such as walls, floors and roofs. Boards are applied over the structural elements of buildings to form a continuous, insulated, breathable shell. Moreover, lime-hemp, aerated clay block, aerated recycled concrete and sheep’s wool insulations are compatible with and capable of enhancing the energy performance of more established materials. All of these supplies can be upgrades to older houses and do not need to be used in new buildings or homes. Finally, the “green roof technology” is an interesting way in cleaning the air. Green roof technology is a refurbished roof with growing plants, shrubs and trees. These ideas will improve the current conditions of cities and coincide with “green” ways of building and renovating.

Another solution worth mentioning is the Kyoto Protocol. This protocol involves thirty-eight developed countries monitoring their toxic gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, in order for these amounts not to exceed their assigned amounts. The control of the percentage of gases released into the atmosphere is matained through an incentive program. Emission credits are granted to individuals or businesses that reduce gas emission rates as a result of changed practices. In Toronto for example, the city has a number of plans that would provide incentive to residents and businesses to encourage communities be more “green” and be environmentally friendly. The Home Energy Assistance program pays residents up to a thousand dollars when they upgrade their home insulation is one example of such a program. Recently, another program was launched, whereby harmful green house gas emissions and smog causing pollutants secreted in lawn mowers, trimmers and leaf blowers, are reduced. It is these types of programs that create a domino effect of town hall meetings where people are encouraged to become involved in sharing their ideas about environmentally safe actions and daily activities. The positive aspect of these meetings is that there are environmental specialists participating, providing tips to residents on how to decrease the amount of toxicities in the air by changing the way one upkeeps their laws and being mindful of harmful household products. In our homes, we can make a conscious decision to use natural cleaning products and energy saver sources of light that are not harmful to the environment once sent away to our garbage landfills. Moreover, renovations of homes can be consciously eco-friendly by deciding to use “greener” materials.

Along with these conscious changes, there are the programs that come to mind as being helpful to Canadian cities like Toronto. The first is the Natural Step, which is a great program that works with neighbourhoods in Canada. Borrowed from this program in Sweden during the 1980s, it is a program that endorses a science based definition of sustainability and strategic planning. The focus of this program is to eliminate overall synthetic chemicals released in our environment. The second comes from an idea from the Netherlands. Their communities have created a “greenhouse powered neighbourhood”. This locality relies on solar heat that is collected and then stored in local groundwater, used to warm greenhouses during the colder months. The third stems from the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, whereby a sustainable community is being built. This space in Vancouver utilizes the natural hydrology of the area for design, landscaping and infiltration systems, to preserve the absorption of rainfall into the ground. The goal of this system is to use natural energy and transform this energy into efficient as well as useful, sustainable sources.

To conclude, the onus is on humans to create solutions and systems that will minimize the dangerous effects that global warming and climate change have on our cities, populations and the environment. The demanding lifestyles, high standards of living and intense usage of energy supported by fossil fuels in countries like Canada, are violations against our environment. The harmful effects of the continuation of such lifestyles need to be understood locally and globally. We are in dire need of environmental experts to find strategies that will encourage and reward everyone for their contribution. It is then that these environmentally friendly lifestyles can replace our old habits and can be passed to the next generation to come.