Climate Change – Would You Save Your Only Home? by Dr Damiana Corca

A major condition of healthy living on Earth is keeping a positive balance between our environment and us. While growing up in the Carpathians I took being self-sustainable for granted, from growing all necessary vegetables on our own land to raising animals that would help us through the winter. Nowadays, I could not do much without relying on fossil energy sources. Unfortunately that comes at a high price. The nature has changed drasticaly and brought fear among us, for the future of our lives and for our children. The media is full of information, very controversial at times, so I was as confused as many of us are when I decided to look closer into the issue of climate change. Are we doomed, can we do something about it, is anything going to change the damage that has already been done – all these questions were racing through my mind. I wanted facts and wanted to know what is in my power to change.
Our society has changed radically in the twentieth century into fossil fuel addicted society, majorly industrialized and, as a consequence, it has caused greenhouse emissions to dramatically increase. This has brought about a chain reaction that has changed our whole world, as we know it, in one single generation.
“The atmospheric concentrations of dioxide of carbon and methane in 2005 exceed by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years”
This table is a major overview of greenhouse gases; these are rough approximations and it is often hard to be precise because they are closely related, each one being found within the other categories. In a Synthesis Report on Climate Change (2007) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states “the atmospheric concentrations of dioxide of carbon and methane in 2005 exceed by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years. Global increases in dioxide of carbon concentrations are due primarily to fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution. It is very likely that the observed increase in methane concentration is predominantly due to agriculture and fossil fuel use. The increase in nitrous oxide concentration is primarily due to agriculture” (pg 15).

Oil, coal, natural gas resources

Energy production accounts for the highest production of greenhouse gases.
We are largely dependent on petroleum (43% of total energy related carbon dioxide emissions), coal (36%), and natural gas (21%) based energy, to the most basic activities (EIA, 2008). In today’s society most of us would not be functional without fuel for our cars and electricity. Energy production accounts for the highest production of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide. In 2006, United States emitted 20% of total carbon dioxide based on fossil fuel, while China 21%. However, if the emissions are calculated per capita, the rate for United States is 20, while for China 5 (EIA, 2006).
Possibilities for alternative energy sources exist and are explored more and more as the threat of global warming becomes more obvious. Currently an increased number of countries are shifting towards solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower. As of 2008, renewable sources of energy accounted for about 7.3% of total U.S. energy consumption and 9% of electricity generation (EIA, 2009). Renewable energy sources are accounted for being the fastest growing industry in 2008 (EIA, 2009). Shifting towards this kind of energy is going to take time and happen gradually but the benefits will be considerable. Not only the carbon dioxide could be reduced, but also the US dependency on fossil energy sources from other countries would be valuable with 57% of fossil energy sources coming from foreign countries such as Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nigeria (EIA, 2008).

Livestock – key factor in climate change

Beef production is by far the leader for livestock emissions; “1 kg of beef being responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 km, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb
for 20 days”.
How did a basic activity like eating end up being part of a climate crisis? Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that choosing to eat less meat or none is the mostimportant choice that one can make to directly affect global warming. United States ranks the highest and it has been the highest for a long time; England is close but its population is about 5 times smaller than that of United States. A change in American diet would have a huge impact on global warming.
Livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of carbon dioxide production (from energy, waste, land use, and forestry), which is higher than emissions produced by transport (FAO, Steinfeld, et al., 2006, pg 112). The impact of livestock production does not stop here. It goes beyond carbon dioxide to other two major greenhouse gases – methane and nitrous oxide. How is it possible that livestock could be responsible for so much of the greenhouse gases? One of the problems with industrial livestock is the waste. The first thing that comes to mind is that manure is sustainable as it is generally being used as a fertilizer but in industrial growing there is too much of it so it is stored in manure “lagoons” where due to lack of oxygenation produces methane and nitrous oxide; the United States is responsible for half of the globe’s total (Lappe, 2008).
In addition, ruminant livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats digest through fermentation, which in turn produces methane and which is eliminated through belching. Though livestock production is only responsible for 9 percent of carbon dioxide, the methane for 37 percent and nitrous oxide for 65 percent of emissions, it must be emphasized that methane has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over 100 years and nitrous oxide is 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over 100 years (FAO, Steinfeld, at al., 2006). Beef production is by far the leader for livestock emissions, “1 kg of beef being responsible for the equivalent of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 250 km, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for 20 days” (Pachauri, 2008).

Amount of water needed to produce 1 Kg of:

  • Maize 900 L
  • Rice 3 000L
  • Chicken 3 900L
  • Pork 4 900L
  • Beef 15 500L
Besides the high amount of water spent for the production of beef, it takes more than 10 kg of animal feed to produce 1 Kg of beef. In addition, a farmer can feed up to 30 persons throughout the year on 1 hectare with plant food, while using the same amount of land for production of animal produce the number of persons fed drops dramatically to an average of 8 (Pachauri, 2008). In addition, livestock pollutes the land and water with nitrates and phosphorus from the use of manmade fertilizers, which contributes to acid rain due to the high amount of ammonia produced. The energy requirements are high due to required refrigeration and cooking at high temperature as opposed to grains or vegetables. The largest part of deforested tropical areas is used for cattle pastures; the overuse has already led to soil degradation in some parts.
Organic farms on the other hand are self-sustained, rely on manpower not on heavy machinery, fewer manmade chemicals are used, and less carbon dioxide is produced. In addition, organic farms can actually help with climate change by trapping carbon in the soil, 10.000 organic farms being able to trap as much as the carbon dioxide from 1 million cars (Lappe, 2008).

Deforestation

At the current rate of deforestation, tropical forests will disappear in 100 years leading to the extinction of many species of plants and animals, and unknown effects in climate change.
Studies of deforestation during Mayan civilization coincide with the drastic drop in Mayan population when it is thought that 90-95% of population has died (Ray, D. K, 2005). According to NASA archeologist Tom Sever, Mayan civilization was one of the densest in the human history, the population density being similar to that of Los Angeles County in year 2000 – 1800-2600 people per square mile. This is not to say that deforestation was the only reason for the Mayan event, but deforestation combined with natural factors and water management implications, lead to the ending of the Mayan civilization (Michon, Earth Observatory, 2007). The Mayan civilization was one of the greatest that ever existed; the above facts should teach us a lesson – to learn from their success as a nation but also from their failures.
According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) 2005 Global Forest Resource Assessment, deforestation continues at a very high rate, but the loss is not so severe due to forest replanting. By and large, the global level of the forest seems to be doing reasonably fine, however looking specifically at the tropical deforestation the figures are alarming. Tropical forests cover 7% of the earth land out of the 30% of the global land covered by forests (National Geographic). However, as much as 50% of all species on Earth, live in tropical forests. This is why it is so crucial to preserve tropical forests. Unfortunately, the figures do not look so good in relation to tropical forests. Island Nation of Comoros (North of Madagascar) cleared nearly 60% of its forest between 1990 and 2005, Togo in West Africa 44%, Honduras 37%, and Mauritania 36%. Thirteen other tropical countries cleared 20% or more of their forest between 1990 and 2005 (Lindsey, 2007). At the current rate of deforestation, tropical forests will disappear in 100 years leading to the extinction of many species of plants and animals, and unknown effects in climate change (Urquhart, 2001).
The major factors to be held accountable for deforestation are agriculture, cattle, and logging. Local farms usually clear only a few acres of land as opposed to commercial agriculture where a few square miles are cleared. The forest cleared by farmers can grow back as soon as 20 years if left alone, unfortunately due to the commercial equipment used for massive deforestation in commercial agriculture, it can take up to 50 years for the trees to grow back. The impact on animals and plants cannot be easily reversed. The carbon dioxide cycle is even more disturbed; not only that there is less of it trapped by the trees, but also burning the trees releases carbon dioxide adding even more to the climate change. The solutions are strongly related to the countries owning the tropical forests but we need a global change in agriculture and cattle raising in order to slow down the deforestation.

Desertification – the most threatening process that primarily affects the poor

The dust storms have had an effect on respiratory diseases as far as North America and had an influence on the coral reefs in the Caribbean.
Desertification is a process where the dry land becomes desert-like. It is natural that a certain amount of desertification occurs, but at the current rate there is extensive evidence that point towards human activities. This process can expand from an already existing desert or form in new places, both due to human activities. According to The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, based on the number of people affected, desertification ranks among the greatest environmental challenges. It is estimated that about 10-20% of dry lands are affected by desertification (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005, pg 1). A direct consequence of this process is dust storms, which can in turn lead to further soil degradation. China’s dust storms are found to be mainly due to climate change and human activity and at a much lesser extent to natural processes (Journal of Geophysical Research). While global warming produces more evaporation from oceans to respond to the warmer atmosphere with increased moisture it also takes moisture from the soil leading to increased desertification. In addition, by loosing fertile soil, more biodiversity is lost, less plants growing and increased carbon dioxide. Other major factors are overexploiting the land, agriculture, and the population growth that has put more pressure on the usage of soil. Agriculture can have a positive impact depending on how it is managed. For example, the fast burning of wood can increase desertification while slow and controlled burning can nourish the soil.
The best approach to desertification is prevention, as restoration of the already affected areas can be expensive and time-consuming. Steps to prevent soil erosion, desalinization, proper irrigation of the water during droughts, can all help prevent desertification. Drought is considered a “silent killer” because it deprives the soil of its valuable nutrients. Extreme conditions are seen, with drought followed by long periods of water scarcity. As of 2005, 1-2 billion people suffer from water scarcity, most of them living in dry land areas where the desertification is predominant (Millennium Assessment Ecosystem, 2005, pg 13; UNESCO, 2006). At this moment, the poorest countries are the most affected; it is sad that the ones having the least responsibility for global warming are the ones to suffer first. All continents besides Antarctica are affected, with a heavy predominance in Africa and Asia. The dust storms have had an effect on respiratory diseases as far as North America and had an influence on the coral reefs in the Caribbean. A complete desertification synthesis is found under the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment initiated by the UN in 2002.

Conclusion

The global warming is currently affecting glaciers, which has major consequences in many aspects of our life and the animal and plant species. It is estimated that by 2020 up to 250 million people in Africa will suffer from water scarcity, 20-30 percent of plant and animal species might face extinction if the temperature continues to increase, and melting glaciers will cause floods that could affect more than 1 billion people. (Assessment Reports on Climate Change, 2006).
To conclude, it is a fact recognized by scientists that climate change is mainly due to human activities. The number of skeptics has drastically dropped over the past years; the ones left either do not argue directly in peer-reviewed scientific journals or recognize the effects of human activities but dismiss any effects that require immediate action (Suzuki).

TAKE ACTION NOW

Meat consumption

  • Decreasing meat consumption is one of the most important changes that one person can do
  • Beef is the meat that takes most energy to be produced
  • Being vegetarian is a good choice but making a program for lower intake of meat is very helpful as well
  • Choose organic as it has a lower impact on climate
  • Health benefits can be seen with a moderate intake of meat

Energy

  • Replace light bulbs for energy saving bulbs – did you know that if all America would change one bulb in their house it would be like taking 1 million cars off the road (National Geographic)
  • Buy energy efficient appliances
  • Turn off lights when they are not needed
  • Turn off computers when not in use or overnight
  • Cook in pressure cooker devices

Transportation

  • Whenever possible choose walking, biking, carpooling to work
  • Take the train
  • Choose smaller cars as they emit less greenhouse gases and are most cost-effective – did you know that “a typical car produces three times its weight in carbon dioxide emissions. Annual fuel costs average $648 for a new Volkswagen Jetta and $2,067 for a Ford Expedition 4×4”. (Suzuki Foundation)
  • Put your kids in the school bus
  • Buy local food, imagine how much energy it takes to bring food from South America, Europe etc
Trash

  • Change the attitude “out of sight, out of mind”; landfills are a major source of pollution
  • Be environmentally conscious and recycle cardboards, paper, cans, and bottles
  • Bring your reusable bags for groceries

Water

  • Use a filter to purify your water and avoid bottled water, it is less expensive and it would reduce the containers waste
  • Install a low flow shower head
  • Choose plants that require minimal watering
  • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth

Trees

  • Plant a tree at home
  • Pay your bills online and choose paperless statements
  • Avoid paper phone books – choose the internet
  • Use both sides of a sheet of paper when printing
  • Choose a service to help you get rid of junk mail
  • Use the local library instead of buying books

Information

  • Go online and find more ways to go green, there are plenty of websites with good tips to help our planet
  • Join different movements and groups that promote sustainable and green living
  • Tell everybody about the exciting changes you are making – you might be surprised at the outcome
  • Promote healthy living among local and national officials
We might ask ourselves, how this is going to make a difference; I am only one among billions of people. Mother Theresa once said: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean; but the ocean would be less because of that drop”. I believe it lies within our power to take the next step. There is a need for everybody throughout this planet to be aware and make changes, and most importantly we need our governments to come together now, to leave politics and money driven interests aside and think about our planet for once. Change is not easy but it is definitely necessary.

My blog: www.elitehealthplex.blogspot.com

Damiana CorcaDOM, AP, Dipl. O.M., Dipl. C.H.
Doctor in Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture Physician
Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology
Western Family and Consultant Herbalist
Candidate, Board Certified Classical Homeopath

References:

[1] Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Core Writing Team, Pachauri, R.K. and Reisinger, A. (Eds.)IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, pg 15

https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/ar4_syr.pdf

[2] Energy Information and Administration Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government, Emissions of Greenhouse Gases Emission Report, Report #: DOE/EIA-0573 (2007), Released Date: December 3, 2008

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/index.html

[3] Energy Information and Administration Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government, Frequently asked questions – Environment,

http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/ask/environment_faqs.asp#CO2_quantity

[4] Energy Information and Administration Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government, International Energy Outlook 2009 with Projections to 2030, March 27, 2009

https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/howard052709.pdf

[5] Ibid

[6] Energy Information and Administration Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government, Frequently Asked Questions, August 2009

http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/ask/crudeoil_faqs.asp#foreign_oil

[7] Guardian.co.uk, Meat consumption per capita, September 2, 2009, from Food and Agriculture of the United Nations

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/datablog/2009/sep/02/meat-consumption-per-capita-climate-change

[8] Steinfeld, H., Gerber P., et al., 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, pg 112

http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

[9] Lappe, A. The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork, October 2008

http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/climatechange/#fn1

[10] Steinfeld, H., Gerber P., et al., 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, pg 112

http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

[11] Patchauri R.K. The Impact of Meat Production and Consumption on Climate Change, 2008, London

http://www.rkpachauri.org/pdf/London08.pdf

[12] Ibid

[13] Lappe, A. The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork, October 2008

http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/climatechange/#fn1

[14]Ray, D. K. et al. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2005, abstract #B33F-07

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2005AGUFM.B33F..07R

[15] Michon, S. Mayan Mysteries, Global Hydrology Resource Center, Earth Observatory, 2004

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Maya/

[16] Global Forest Resources Assessment, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations

ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/008/A0400E/A0400E00.pdf

[17] National Geographic, Deforestation, (extracted September 12, 2009)

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview.html

18] Lindsey, R. Tropical Deforestation, Earth Observatory, March 30, 2007

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Deforestation/

[19] Urquhart, G., Chomentowski, W. et al. Tropical Deforestation. 2003

https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/steltenforests1.pdf

[20] Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, Desertification Synthesis, World Resources Institute. 2005

https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/document.355.aspx.pdf

[21] Journal of Geophysical Research, Qi, F., L. Wei, L. Yansui, Z. Yanwu, and S. Yonghong (2004), Impact of desertification and global warming on soil carbon in northern China, J. Geophys. Res., 109, D02104, doi:10.1029/2003JD003599.

http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2004/2003JD003599.shtml

[22] Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, Desertification Synthesis, World Resources Institute. 2005

https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/document.355.aspx.pdf

[23] UNESCO. Sharing Water

http://www.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr/wwdr2/pdf/wwdr2_ch_11.pdf

[24] Gateway to the UN’s Systems on Climate Change. The Science. The Economics of Climate change – The Stern Review. 2006

http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/climatechange/pages/gateway/the-science

[25] Suzuki Foundation, Science – The Skeptics

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/Science/Skeptics.asp

[26] IPCC. Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. 2006

http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2006gl/index.html

[27] Suzuki Foundation, Science – The Skeptics

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/Science/Skeptics.asp

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