- Research for this article has been done by Julian Chan -
“The heat could kill someone today,” I whined, trotting down the stairs, the sweet smell of dinner drifting around the house. My father smiles at my exaggerated phrase, my hyperbole coming off as humorous. Sweat lays on my brow, as I enter the kitchen, and a wave of heat assails me. My mother stands there over a stove, invisible heat hugging our bodies.
It would make sense to say our world is like a kitchen. A place of food, resources and giving. But when work is performed, it gets hotter and hotter and hotter... till a fire starts. But unlike a kitchen, there is only one world while there are a million kitchens....
It’s been a few days since the heat was insufferable. The weather changed, and a damp downpour has cooled our air. But my mind still reflects upon that heaty day, and why it felt warmer than usual....
There are a few reasons in our world that explains why the temperature grows to be intolerable. Firstly, it might just be an extremely sunny day, and there are lesser clouds in the sky. Secondly, one might have a fever, leading their body’s temperature to increase. However, there’s another darker reason, one worse than a sunny day and a fever… greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in our Earth’s atmosphere. They allow sunlight to warm our world, but prevent the heat from escaping back into space, heating our home, like a pan on a stove. Greenhouse gases consist of four components: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. The root of these gases are often from irresponsible energy consumption, which releases harmful carbon emissions. As these emissions build up, more greenhouse gases are trapped which causes our Earth’s temperature to increase, breaking past records of high temperatures, and constantly introducing new ones.
As a matter of fact, last year, 2020, was one of the hottest years, with an average temperature of 14.9°C, (± 0.1) °C globally. This finding was a shock to some, for during 2019 and 2020, the Earth was going through a La Niña season. For context, La Niña is an atmospheric phenomenon which changes widespread patterns, and often brings different temperatures to different places around the globe.
Speaking about the globe, the global troubles we encounter have a similar philosophy to those in the kitchen. If we do things irresponsibly, such as leaving a pan to heat while taking a phone call or simply leaving flammable material near to the stated pan… something will blow up.
The “blowing up”, in this context, are the consequences. Having a rise in temperature doesn’t mean more time at beaches or an increase in Vitamin D, it instead brings detrimental results. With the continuous rising in temperature, many species are at risk of going extinct, for the temperature exceeds their physiological tolerance. Polar bears and penguins are especially affected by the warming of our Earth.
Furthermore, not only do they get harmed, their habitats do too. With greenhouse gases introducing a new level of temperature, icebergs and glaciers are predicted to melt, increasing sea levels, bringing disadvantages to us, the provocateurs of greenhouse gases.
A rise in sea levels makes millions of people in coastal areas vulnerable. If they rise to a certain level, saltwater would be able to penetrate aquifers or any water sources, polluting what we consume. To add fuel to the fire, they would also affect ecosystems as well as create severe floods, due to higher tides. Considering that many of our world’s financial districts are located in coastal areas, governments would either have to invest millions of dollars to relocate or face the collapsing economies...
Back to the metaphor. If a kitchen was indeed caught on fire, it’s expected that volunteers or fire departments would rush to extinguish it, before it gets any worse. Thus, although the world is a dark place, we must believe that there is still light in some corners, joining with others to make their flames brighter. Around the globe, there are many organizations raising awareness on the production and dangers of greenhouse gases, while taking steps to slowly extinguish them. There are plenty of solutions we can apply in our daily lives as well, such as using climate-friendly energy resources, like solar panels or wind generation, or planting more flora and fauna, for trees are a way to capture carbon dioxide from the air.
However, suppose the kitchen’s fire was too big, too wild, and although hoses were used and water was poured, the fire still raged on. In our context, it would mean that despite all the efforts, greenhouse gases and global carbon emissions are still increasing, the slanted line on graphs pointing upwards. Unfortunately, it’s predicted that these greenhouse gases emissions will continue to rise for years to come.
Therefore, to all readers, solutions need to be looked for and greenhouse gases ought not to be ignored. For if we tackle climate change with ignorance, we are fighting fire with fire. And if everyone fights fire with fire… the world will go up in smoke.