Before we figure out the best way to combat climate change, let’s take a moment to get clear on what the most pressing issues are regarding the climate. These are the five most important facts everybody should know about:
The earth’s temperature has been going up and down for centuries. However, it hasn’t been this warm for a very long time. Worldwide it is now 1.1 °C warmer - on average - than before 1900 (the beginning of the industrial age). In Belgium and the Netherlands, the warming rate is even faster: already more than 2 °C. This trend will continue: by 2100, global warming could reach 5 °C.
Here you can see what it means if the earth warms up by two, three, four, or five °C.
What is the cause of global warming? Man. Or rather the greenhouse gases we are emitting en masse. The main gas causing the earth’s temperature to rise is CO₂. We have increased its concentration in the air by 50% since 1900, making man the only net cause of the current warming. Natural factors that influence the climate (think of volcanoes and solar activity) are much weaker. More so: natural elements have had a cooling effect on the environment in recent decades.
The greenhouse effect is not a recent discovery; we have known about it for over two hundred years. The Swedish physicist Svante Arrhenius stated in 1896 that carbon dioxide from burning coal would warm the planet. Whereas a few years ago, some scientists still doubted whether the warming could be due to volcanic eruptions or increased solar activity, today there is no doubt anymore. Just look at the latest research: 234 climate experts worked on it for four years, and it summarises no less than 14,000 scientific studies. They all agree that humans are the leading cause of global warming.
People all over the world are struggling with the consequences of climate change. The ice in the polar regions and glaciers is melting fast, the number of climate disasters is increasing, and we are seeing more and more extreme weather phenomena. Developing countries around the equator will feel most of the impact of climate change. There, problems arise from failed harvests, drought, epidemics, and floods. But in Western Europe, we also notice that the earth is warming up, with record highs in the last couple of years. And did you know that, in Belgium and the Netherlands, songbirds are starting to breed earlier and earlier, so their young hatch in early spring when there are no insects to feed on yet?
Thanks to the massive amount of scientific research on climate change, we know what to expect so that we can prepare. More and more countries, companies, and people are committing to reducing their emissions to zero by 2050. The good news: it is entirely possible. Energy from the sun, water, and wind is becoming more powerful and cheaper. Even in the covid year 2020, companies installed more green energy worldwide than ever before. Green energy accounted for 80% of the new production capacity.
So we should no longer ask ourselves whether the earth is warming up and whether humans are to blame. Instead, the question is: what can we do? Fortunately, the answer is: a lot. The switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy has only just begun. And every small step makes a difference.
Every tonne of CO₂ that we emit matters. For instance: every year, the average Belgian or Dutch person melts away about the size of their own living room in ice. Fortunately, it also works the other way around: every acre of protected forest, every energy-saving building, and every journey by train instead of plane protects the planet.
Do you want to do something about climate change yourself? On our website, you can easily calculate your CO₂-footprint and reduce it.