Things we can do to Slow down Global Warming

Global Warming is in the news almost everyday – in newspapers and on television news broadcasts – around the world.  Extreme weather conditions and climatic changes that are experienced across the globe have indeed become concerns of great proportion.  Scientific records, in fact, indicate that the last 15 years have seen the 10 warmest years ever recorded on Earth.  And in some countries, particularly those in Southeast Asia, people are seeing a trend that is now cause for worry – the periods between the occurrences of the El Nino phenomenon are becoming shorter and shorter.  El Nino is an abnormal warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean (as opposed to the La Nina phenomenon which is characterized by below normal sea temperatures).  A few decades ago in the Philippines, for example, the periods between El Nino’s used to be 5 to 10 years.  "The intervals have become much shorter now – down to 3 years", according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.  More instances of El Nino will mean more hot and dry spells for that country, causing drought on land and the destruction of coral reefs in the seas.

Worldwide climatic changes are linked to increasing levels of greenhouse gases, so called because they form a shield around the earth like a greenhouse, trapping the sun’s heat.  Most of these gases occur naturally.  For instance, evaporation produces water vapor, and animal digestive processes release carbon monoxide.  However, the forces of nature are not actually the causes of global warming.  The culprit, rather, is human activity.  People around the world, for example, have been burning huge quantities of carbon-based fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas, and coal, and thus releasing carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the troposphere (the lower atmosphere).  Deforestation, on the other hand, reduces nature’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases.

If global warming continues, the earth may heat up another 1 to 3 degrees celsius (2 to 6 degrees fahrenheit) over the next century, and perhaps even higher thereafter.  Think about the adverse effects of global warming on the earth’s climate, land and water, the quality of air we breathe, our food supply, health, and the natural habitats.  Imagine these scenarios:  heat waves and hard rainfalls intensifying and occurring more frequently; ice caps melting which might raise sea levels and cause flooding in low-lying coastal areas; changes in rainfall and weather temperatures harming farm productivity; high moisture levels increasing the risk of diseases (such as malaria and cholera); increases in temperature and longer warm seasons causing more pollution; and changes in ecosystems (such as forests, wetlands, and coral reefs) speeding up the extinction of wildlife!

It’s a relief to know that we actually can do something (a number of things, in fact) to protect our climate and slow down global warming.  The key is in cutting down on our consumption of the fossil fuels that we burn:

- Buy fuel-efficient vehicles.  More than a third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from cars, trucks, and buses.
- Drive less.  Walk to your destination if it’s not that far.  Try a bicycle, or use public transportation.  Or you can organize a car pool among your relatives, colleagues at work, or neighbors.
- Drive smart.  Avoid sudden starts and stops as these consume more fuel and which, in turn, cause more emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  Bring your car in for regular tune-ups too as it improves fuel efficiency by half.
- Use energy-efficient lightbulbs.  Conventional incandescent bulbs generate only 10 percent of illumination from the energy they use, while the other 90 percent are lost in the form of heat.  Switch to compact fluorescent lights which are more energy efficient.  They cost more than the conventional bulbs, but you get to save some of those crisp bills in your household budget because they last longer.
- Unplug your appliances that are not in use to reduce wastage of standby power.  Unknown to some people, many appliances that are plugged in still consume energy even when they are not in use or turned off.  For instance, 25 percent of a television’s energy is consumed even when it’s not turned on.  A cellphone charger that is still plugged in consumes about 5 watts.  A good alternative to this is to use power strips which you can switch off.  Power strips still consume some amount of energy but far less than the appliances that are left plugged in.
- When replacing appliances, choose the most energy-efficient models and keep them well maintained.  A refrigerator, for instance, uses 10 to 15 percent of the total electricity consumption each month.  Older refrigerator models consume more.  When you’re away, turn the thermostat low (ideally, set it at 4 degrees celsius) for huge energy savings.
- Weatherproof your house with added insulation and weather stripping to cut fuel use.
- Use your computer smartly.  If you need to keep your computer on, enable its power management feature to save 70 percent of energy.  Laptop computers are 90 percent more energy efficient than desktops; inkjet printers are more energy efficient than laser printers; and black-and-white printing is more energy efficient than color printing.
- Practice recycling.  Consume fewer products; reuse what you can.  When you do the groceries, use canvas totes instead of taking your groceries home in plastic bags.  This way, manufacturers of these plastic bags won’t have to use more energy to make brand new ones.
- Conserve water.  Use only enough water that’s necessary.  Organize your garden or potted plants in such a way that they don’t have to use so much water.  Choose hardier plants or put mulch (sawdust, compost, or paper) on top of the soil to keep the moisture in.  Water saved means the water companies do not have to expend more energy generating water for your household needs.
- Plant trees.  They absorb carbon dioxide.
- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Find out how much carbon dioxide your activities are releasing into the atmosphere and how you can reduce them.  For example, look for ways to use solar energy.
- Volunteer your skills to such organizations like Greenpeace.  Make others aware of the real dangers that global warming can bring to our lives.

Every one of us has a duty to care for our mother Earth now so that our children, and our children’s children, can enjoy it the same way we’re enjoying it.  It’s a responsibility all of us have to take on.