Problems and solutions
With so many environmental challenges, it's hard to know where to start. We start by defining some of the most pressing issues, looking at the data, and learning about evidence based opportunities for change.
A BBC report described the current climate change situation as follows:
CO2 levels hit 417 parts per million (ppm), setting record highs despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Humans have put 100ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere in the past 60 years, a rate 100 times faster than previous natural increases
The decade 2011-2020 was the hottest on record.
In June 2020, temperatures reached 38C in Siberia, the hottest ever recorded in the Arctic; consequently, the summer of 2020 had some of the lowest sea ice areas on record.
Increasing Arctic temperatures have also accelerated melting of permafrost, which stores twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, mostly in the form of methane (a greenhouse gas with a global warming impact 84 times higher than CO2).
In its Sixth Assessment Report, the International Panel on Climate Change observed the following impacts from climate change:
Widespread, pervasive impacts to ecosystems, people, settlements, and infrastructure have resulted from observed increases in the frequency and intensity of climate and weather extremes, including hot extremes on land and in the ocean, heavy precipitation events, drought, and fire weather.
Substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, have occurred in terrestrial, freshwater, coastal, and open ocean marine ecosystems.
Increasing weather and climate extreme events have exposed millions of people to acute food insecurity and reduced water security, with the largest impacts observed in many locations and/or communities in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Small Islands, and the Arctic.
Climate change has shown adverse effects to the physical health of people globally and mental health of people in assessed regions.
Indoor and outdoor air pollution
In 2019, 99% of the world population was breathing air that exceeds the World Health Organization guideline limits for pollution
Outdoor and indoor air pollution exposure leads to often-fatal noncommunicable diseases including stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.
Ambient/outdoor air pollution was estimated to cause 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016; 91% of these deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries.
Household/indoor air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths in 2020.
Indoor pollution primarily arises from usage of kerosene or coal stoves, used by 2.4 billion people worldwide; women and children, who spend the most time at home exposed to kerosene and coal, bear the greatest health burden for household pollution.
Air pollution is the world’s third leading risk factor for death, causing 6.67 million global deaths per year—11.65% of total deaths (indoor and outdoor combined)
Air pollution is also the second leading contributor to global disease burden, accounting for 213 million DALYs annually (one DALY, or “disability-adjusted life year,” represents losing one year of good health due to either premature mortality or disability).
Death rates from air pollution are highest in low-to-middle income countries, with more than 100-fold differences in rates across the world.
What can we do about it?
directly working to mitigate global warming or ameliorate air pollution.
designing improved tech to mitigate greenhouse gasses or polluting particles.
Policy change: designing/passing policies to address environmental concerns on an international, regional, national, or local level.
promoting awareness of environmental problems.
“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.” David Attenborough
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