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Category: Opinion


Climate Change: Shifting the Discussion

A few days before this year’s Valentine’s Day, I met this girl – kind, intelligent and very beautiful. Boldly, I asked her out on a date and just like that, she agreed to meet on Valentine’s Day. What we both thought would be a romantic evening drastically turned into a debate about Climate Change. She believes that the whole discussion about climate change is exaggerated by fear mongers. I was left in utter disbelief as she thought my views were incredibly saddening.

Climate Change is happening – that’s a fact. The evidence to it is very overwhelming.

Every day, the sun, which is the main source of earth’s energy, emits rays of light to the earth surface. The earth absorbs part of the heat from the rays and reflects a large part into the atmosphere. Some of the rays reflected into the atmosphere are infrared rays. These rays are cushioned by the clouds and water vapor which stabilizes the earth’s temperature keeping it warm enough to sustain life.

Today, the problem is the rise in human activities including burning fossil fuels, agriculture and land clearing, among others. It has increased the concentration of greenhouse gasses which, like clouds and water vapor, trap infrared rays reflected by the earth into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gasses (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) are responsible for keeping the heat in, which has resulted into rising temperature and a change in weather patterns around the globe along with other effects like ocean acidification.

In other words, global warming is being triggered by increased concentration of greenhouse gasses caused by human activity.

Regardless of whether you think the discussion is exaggerated or not, we can’t close our eyes to the disastrous effects of climate change already happening. The earth is already dealing with challenges of food insecurity, poverty and disease. Sadly, climate change poses even a bigger threat of worsening the already existing problems. No doubt, the consequences of the changing climate are so severe that we must take significant steps to mitigate it.

I will start with the bad news.

The continued warming and ocean acidification will, at its best, destroy all the fragile aquatic ecosystems like coral reefs and impend fish populations which several millions of people rely on for food and livelihood. Areas that currently experience prolonged dry spells will become much warmer with longer drought conditions which will adversely affect global food production. As warm seasons last longer than usual, farming in the developing countries will be faced with a tremendous risk of crop failure, more crop pests and diseases and this coupled with irregular rains will create massive water and food shortages resulting in horrifying death tolls and worsening of the ongoing poverty and migrant crises.

The good news is that we can all mitigate some of the effects of climate change regardless of whether you believe if it is a real thing or not. Climate change is a global issue that has no respect to borders, religious beliefs or political affiliation.

If we are going to mitigate some of the effects of climate change, we need to start making real changes immediately. In my view, this starts with empowering people to take action instead of trying to scare them into action. We ought to shift the discussion from what it is currently to deliberately making people hooked to renewable energies by “selling” to them the future for the right reasons they fully understand and agree with.

There is a group of people who, just like my date on Valentine’s Day, think that the available options to replace human activities that increase concentration of greenhouse gasses are primitive, expensive, inefficient but necessary replacement.

Usually, we talk about electric cars replacing the gas powered cars, wind turbines replace the coal plant and having solar panels and so forth. We frame our facts as though these are solutions we have to use whether we like it or not, lest we are all going to die. While these are factually good arguments, they aren’t doing enough to convince people into embracing renewable energy.

So let us imagine for a moment, what if we start to talk about renewable energy as an improvement of our gas-powered engines? What if we embrace regenerative and sustainable agriculture while demonstrating its ability to feed the world population beyond 2050 on the already available land instead of clearing forests for agriculture?

Over the years, I have learnt that people didn’t replace farm animals for machinery because machinery was a “necessary perfect replacement” or good for the environment. No, they didn’t. They actually switched to fossil fuels in the first place because they seemed like a better handy option in comparison to what they were accustomed to. Since fossil fuels were introduced as an improvement, they realized that one can actually build and produce faster, bigger and on a scale unimaginable at the time.

This, in my view, should be the same trajectory as we seek to empower, not scare people into action to mitigate effects of climate change. People need to understand what the new source of energy allows a person or as a society to do that you were unable to do before? We need to talk about renewable energies possess that will make fossil fuels look not only obsolete but barbaric? That way, we will have shifted the discussion about climate change, given people something they didn’t know they needed before while we save the planet.