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It is Getting Hot in Here!

It’s Getting Hot In Here

Sorry folks, but global warming will have much worse consequences than just uncomfortable weather. Here’s why you ought to be doing something-and what you can do.

Quick question: how many times have you cursed this unusually hot weather in the last few days? And how many times has some wise guy beside you attributed the heat to that new green byword, global warming? If you still haven’t kept abreast of the facts-and if you haven’t seen Nobel Prize winner Al Gore’s incredible (and incredibly scary) film “An Inconvenient Truth”-then maybe it’s about time you did. That’s because the consequences of global warming will be a lot more serious for human beings than just sunstroke and heat rash.

So why exactly is the planet getting hotter? According to www.climatecrisis.net, the website for Gore’s film, carbon dioxide and other gases keep the planet naturally warm by keeping the heat of the sun within the earth’s atmosphere-a good thing in itself, because this is what keeps the earth toasty enough for people to survive in. Unfortunately the constant burning of limited fossil fuels-that is, natural fuels like coal, gas, and oil that are formed from the remains (or fossils) of living organisms-has led to a continuing increase in the levels of such greenhouse gases, so-called because they trap heat within the planet like the glass roof of a sweltering tropical greenhouse.

The more appropriate term to use nowadays, however, would be climate change, says the National Academy of Sciences, because “it helps convey that there are other changes in addition to rising temperatures.” The earth’s climate has been affected through the ages by a variety of natural causes, such as volcanic eruptions; remember how Mt. Pinatubo’s fury was felt all over the world?

Nowadays, only the most obstinate of scientists would be in denial about climate change. On Feb. 2, 2007, the United Nations declared that evidence of global warming is “unequivocal,” and that human activity has “very likely” been its main cause over the last 50 years.

According to NASA, the average temperature of our planet has changed by about 1.4 degrees in the last 100 years. The eight warmest years reported on record (since 1850) have all occurred since 1998, with the warmest year being 2005 (well, before they counted this year’s sweltering summer). As if that wasn’t bad enough, carbon dioxide emissions get a bigger boost from haphazard land development and deforestation-both of which mean less trees to absorb the gas-and electricity generation.

Scientists say that unless emissions are curbed, the earth’s average temperatures could be 3 to 9 degrees higher by the end of the century-not much if you’re a human being who can escape into an air-conditioned room, but a disaster if you’re a fish dependent on coral reefs bleached by the sun or, as has been sadly documented, a polar bear faced with drowning because your icy habitat is melting away.

“Everyone should be concerned, because climate change changes everything,” says World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines vice chairman Lory Tan. “All bets are off. The end result is unpredictability. More than simply environmental, the dislocations that lie ahead will be economic, and therefore social and political, as well.”

The website www.climatecrisis.net paints a very grim picture indeed-the death toll from climate change hitting some 300,000 in 25 years; the world’s oceans rising by more than 20 feet, melting much of Greenland and Antarctica and eating up coastal areas everywhere (something to think about if you live on an archipelago like the Philippines); more frequent heat waves, droughts, and wildfires; and more than a million species of plants and animals extinct by 2050.

So maybe no single person-not even Al Gore-can stop global warming. But a world full of people, Pinoys included, taking some simple steps to reduce their “carbon footprint,” or the estimated amount of carbon dioxide they produce while going about their day-to-day lives, can certainly make a difference and slow down what can only be described as an impending catastrophe. Start with one or two changes, and before you know it, helping save the planet will become second nature.

Simple Things to Do to Slow Down Global Warming

1) Walk or commute more. It’s not just good for your health; studies show that driving just 16 km less a week could save some 500 lbs of carbon emissions. Plus, you don’t have to stew in traffic. Alternatives could be carpooling, or getting yourself a cool scooter! If you really must drive, though, keep your car well-maintained, don’t speed or overload the vehicle, avoid idling for long periods, and check your tires-all of these can affect your fuel consumption. In addition to your color-coded day, why not add another day to take the MRT?

2) Become paper-free. Read and store more data and documents in your computer instead of printing hard copies. Opt for e-mailed bills from credit card and utility companies instead of mailed paper statements. Send e-cards. Recycle scratch paper.

3) Take advantage of environment-friendly technology. Use fluorescent light bulbs, opt for energy-efficient appliances, and choose low-flow faucets and shower heads and water closets with half-flush options for your house. Turn off and unplug any appliances that you don’t need; even a cellphone charger that remains plugged when it’s not in use could be unnecessarily using up energy.

4) Be a smart shopper. Buy fresh instead of frozen food; fresh is better for you and requires much less energy to prepare and preserve.

Patronize locally-grown or-produced products, and do away with the energy required to manufacture and transport stuff. Eat less meat, as the livestock industry is a major user of unproductive land, actually generating more greenhouse gas than the transport sector! Start with one meatless family day a week. Buy biodegradable cleaning aids, buy in bulk to save on production costs and effort (i.e., a pack of nine toilet paper rolls instead of four), and buy stuff that uses simpler, more economical packaging. Oh, and do get some of those cute canvas bags instead of plastic ones at the grocery; many stores in the country are already offering the option.

5) Save Water. Make it baon from home. Don’t switch on the washing machine until it’s full of clothes. Save rainwater for cleaning or watering plants. Long soaks in the bathtub are a real waste nowadays; take an invigorating shower instead.

6) Recycle. Glass, aluminum, cardboard, old newspapers-all of these can be used again. Save old jars for storage. Used bottles can double as water containers to take from home, instead of having to buy more and more plastic bottles of mineral water each day. Keep the newspapers you buy and take them home.

7) Reuse. Buy antiques for décor; raid the local ukay-ukay. Using anything that has been used before by someone else actually cuts down on energy consumption. Donate everything you’re not using, from books to old clothes. Next time you get complimented for that vintage top, proudly say that you’re wearing it to fight global warming-and you’re not just trying to be cute.

Author: Alya B. Honasan
Sunday INQUIRER Magazine, April 27, 2008 Issue


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