We usually follow what’s hot and trending because it seems to make us look cool. However, this kind of “hot” is something that needs to be cooled. We’re talking about our only home, the planet earth, which over the past has seen the highest rise in temperatures, compared to those in the past three decades combined. The UN Summit on Climate Change held on 23 September gathered the world’s top leaders (over 100 leaders in attendance) to tackle the world’s most devastating menace to sweep the planet, mostly human-made and affects everyone—rich or poor, man or woman, young or old.
Climate change has been blamed for rising sea levels and for extreme weather conditions. Recall last year’s typhoon Haiyan, among the world’s worst typhoon and claimed almost 10,000 lives, displaced 14 million people, and destroyed millions worth of properties in Tacloban and nearby provinces in the Philippines. The effects of climate change are happening every day in many parts of the world threatening food security, safety, and lives. Many have become vulnerable, among them women, indigenous people, the poor, the young and the aged, among other sectors. Some of them contribute least to climate change but are most affected primarily because of lack of access to timely and credible information.
A major decision in the Summit was to step up efforts to cut the rise of temperature to less than 2 degrees centigrade. We can no longer afford to contribute to the further heating of the planet. Countries have been directed to take national actions consistent with the less than 2-degree pathway.
The world’s greenhouse emissions still hail from industries, transportation, power producers and refrigeration. Among the agreements set at the Summit was a commitment to lower emissions from these industries, as well as the manufacture of energy-efficient appliances and fuel-efficient transportation. On the country level, countries have set a peak level for their gas emission before 2020, reduce level of emissions, and achieve climate neutrality by the middle of the century.
Many commitments were made at the international arena and action agenda were determined at the national level. Right at our local level, our contribution will be in the form of choices. In this case, some people will have to make inconvenient (perhaps more costly at this point) choices. While we live in a prosperous part of the world, we cannot be indiscriminate in disposing of stuff which can be re-used or be given to someone who might find use for what we already consider rubbish. We should still make it a habit to practise the three R’s—reduce, reuse, recycle. If possible, involve the family and young children. The effort has to be sustained so the practice has to be so that it becomes a habit.
It may be more costly right now, but it is wiser in the long run to choose appliances that will not contribute to too much energy use. Energy efficiency is the buzzword and the new standard. Remember that what we do today reflects on others also, especially people who are vulnerable to climate change—those whose contributions to it are least, but whose voices are least heard.
Climate change is true and happening here and now. Our lives are pieced together by the enormity of scope of this phenomenon. While choices are many, only few are responsible.
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