« Financial tips for funding your volunteer project | Main | Volunteer photo of the week: Rachel Jenkins »

Hope for reducing climate change

Climate change is happening - and it’s scary. Global warming, rising sea levels, an exhaustion of natural resources, and the loss of wildlife habitats are all things that threaten current generations and those yet to come. And, it is hard not to be worried when you read the constant deluge of newspaper articles warning of a terrifying and uncertain future.

Climate change is a cause of extreme weather. Image courtesy of Bert Kaufmann

A recent review of 350 news articles regarding climate change from between 2007 to 2012 found that almost 80 percent warned of pending disaster or referred to the uncertainties surrounding climate science. Furthermore, less than two percent of them focused on what can be gained from reducing our carbon output. Environmentalists will agree that it is a serious topic and that the public needs to understand the risks of not changing our behaviours. But, they also need to be reliably informed. Scare mongering and painting the worst possible picture is not productive, and actually prevents discussion from focusing on what can be done to mitigate the situation. So, let’s focus on the positives a little shall we? What positive steps have been made, or are currently being made, to reduce our environmental impact?

1. Britain committed to a cut in its emissions by 12.5% from its 1990 levels by investing in clean and renewable energy. It actually achieved a 24% decrease in emissions between 1990 to 2010. Of course, Britain is not the only country making better environmental choices, and overall a 10% reduction in emissions was recorded for the whole of the EU between that time period.

2. The United Nations secretary general Ban-Ki Moon has invited world leaders to meet this week to break the stalemate in talks surrounding global warming. He will tell world leaders that he expects crucial talks to occur next year as part of a diplomatic push for a new global treaty on climate change. By starting early, Moon hopes that the US, China and EU countries can agree on some broad outlines for a new climate agreement before the next international climate meeting in Paris in 2015.

3. Friends of the Earth in the UK had been campaigning since 2003 for a climate change law that would make the government legally bound to cut their carbon output by three percent each year. Since then, over 200000 people registered their support for the campaign and contacted their MP’s to demand the law be created. As a result, in 2007 a climate change bill was set out by the government, making a commitment to tackling climate change. The government has agreed to reduce C02 emissions by at least 60% by 2050. It also led to the creation of the climate change committee to monitor the situation and offer expert advice on how to reach these goals. WWF see this bill as a landmark decision, which has been inspirational to other countries around the world.


Conservation projects work on a grassroots level to help protect against climate change.
Image courtesy of Emily Zinselmeier, Peru Amazon Rainforest Conservation

4. Due to lobbying from charities and NGO’s, a UN panel of world leaders has agreed to make sustainable development one of their major targets in their follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

5. A group of scientists from Oxford recently announced that there has been a slowing down in global warming, meaning that extreme global warming is less likely to occur in the coming decades. If this rate continues, the scientists predict that the planet will warm 20% slower than previously predicted.

Hooray, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are beacons of hope amongst the bleak picture of environmental change. In fact, climate change is on the agenda for many powerful countries, and policy is slowly being put in place to make the essential changes. But, we mustn’t forget the changes occurring on an individual basis too. For the general public comes an ever increasing environmental conscience inspiring many people to make changes to their everyday lifestyles. Recycling has become commonplace in many homes, food waste initiatives are being set up, and some people even have solar panels proudly a top of their homes. A small change individually can make a large change collectively. It has already been proven that it is possible and feasible to reduce carbon emissions on an individual, national and global scale. The challenges may seem knee-quiveringly daunting, but don’t feel defeated, all is not lost.

Learn more about volunteering opportunities in environmental conservation across the globe.

Get more from us on social media with FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

See more from our volunteers on YouTube and Flickr.