The Earth has warmed by an average of 0.56 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years, and many of the world’s leading climate scientists think people’s actions are making the planet warmer. China, with its large population and fragile environment, stands to be one of the biggest victims of climate change. Released in 2006, China’s first Climate Change Report predicts the country’s annual average temperature will rise by as much as 3.3 degrees Celsius by 2050, and by 2100 it could soar by as much as six degrees Celsius.
Since the 1950s, glaciers in northwest China have melted at a rate of seven percent annually, putting the quality and supply of drinking water for millions of Chinese at risk. Studies also suggest that a two degree Celsius increase in mean air temperature in southern China could decrease rain-fed rice yield by five to 12 percent, possibly destabilizing the country’s main food source.
One explanation for this increase in temperature is the greenhouse effect. As sunlight passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, some of the energy – that previously would have reflected back into space – remains trapped in the atmosphere created by greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gas emissions are expressed as CO² equivalents. We produce these CO² emissions every day, but our carbon footprint – the term used to specify how many CO² emissions an individual, company or project collectively use – increases every time we turn on the TV, drive a car, wash clothes or microwave a meal. Any function that uses electricity that is produced by burning coal and oil – the main sources of greenhouse gases.
Calculate your own carbon footprint online at the websites like the World Wide Fund For Nature and World Wildlife Federation.
What to Do
Walk or cycle to school or work to reduce car and bus emissions. If every couple in the UK spent an evening strolling instead of driving, they would collectively save around 10,000 tons of CO².
Turn the lights off, and the heat or air conditioner down.
Improve insulation for windows and your home won’t leak cooled or heated air. Use energy efficient bulbs and appliances.
Turn off all computers, copiers, fax, water coolers when not in use. A typical PC left on all the time produces 0.8 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Run the dishwasher on an economy setting and halve the number of times you put it on.
Recycle cans, bottles, plastic bags, and newspapers. When you recycle, you send less trash to the landfill and you help save natural resources, like trees, oil, and elements such as aluminum.
Use a low-flow showerhead.
Buy locally produced food. Even better, go organic.
For holidays choose to visit local destinations in China. Take a bus or a train ride through some of this country’s natural heritage sites.Use a water filter to purify tap water in China instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste.
Eat less meat. Leading environmental organiz-ations see a link between meat consumption – and thus ranching, cattle methane and deforestation for cropland – and climate change.
Think before you buy. Go online to find gently used secondhand products.
Jenny Chu, a senior consultant at Camco Advisory (www.camcoglobal.com) in Beijing, works on finding solutions to climate change.
Camco advises policy-makers and creates new ventures to help companies reduce their carbon footprint.