Temperatures to increase by 2.5 to 10 degrees Celsius. More frequent droughts and heat waves. Sea levels rising by more than a metre. The Arctic Ocean likely to become ice-free. Hurricanes will become stronger, and more frequent and long-lasting. Is that the world you want to live in?
This forecast for the next century was provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The world is quickly changing — mostly for the worse. Climate change is greatly affecting our planet’s food, water and energy sources.
Key issues and impact
Young Post talked to Paul Harris, the Education University of Hong Kong’s environmental studies professor, about the key issues surrounding climate change and its impact across the world. Harris says the crucial issue is material consumption, specifically our never-ending desire to buy things. The fact that we always want to be surrounded by new things is by far the biggest cause of climate change, he adds. “Directly related to this is our lack of mindfulness about our impact on the environment generally and the Earth’s climate in particular.”
Harris continues: “Ultimately, the impact is monumental human suffering and death. Millions of people, most of them poor, will die due to climate change. Many millions more will experience extreme suffering. This is tragic in itself, but what makes it especially so is that those people will suffer and die because the world’s affluent people – including the majority of us here in Hong Kong – are consuming stuff we don’t need, and often, don’t even want.”
Siddarth Das, Executive Director of Global Earth Hour at global conservation body WWF, agreed that climate change is a man-made problem. Das told Young Post: “WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016 shows us that human activity is pushing the planet to the brink, impacting its ability to cope with challenges such as climate change. The world’s current food, energy and finance systems continue to fuel biodiversity loss and impact climate change.” He added: “2016 was the hottest year on record. In December 2016, Arctic weather stations recorded temperatures 20 degrees Celsius higher than normal for that time of year. This is unheard of.”
Why should HK worry?
Das highlights key reasons as to why we should support campaigns like the annual
Earth Hour, which will be held at 8.30pm tomorrow. “With carbon dioxide emitted by the consumption of fossil fuels being the largest component of the Ecological Footprint – 50 per cent – it is critical we move away from fossil fuels.” He said by supporting grassroots movements like Earth Hour, which WWF started in 2007, individuals can drive demand for change.
Would you go to a pool and spa that uses sludge - sewage from toilets and kitchens - if it means helping the environment?
“Today, more than 70 per cent of Hong Kong’s electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, while renewable energy makes up only about 0.1 per cent of the fuel mix,” Das says.
Cheung Chi-wah, Assistant Director of Conservation (Climate and Energy) at WWF Hong Kong, adds: “If everyone on Earth were to live the way Hong Kong people do, we would need 3.9 planets to meet our needs.”
Ways to save energy
There is a lot you can do to reduce emissions and prevent climate change. Earth Hour takes place every year on March 25 at 8.30pm.
Earth Hour should force people to take these actions seriously and think about what they can do to ensure a sustainable future.
Das says: “These actions are not, and should not be, limited to any specific hour or day. Instead, like the Earth Hour movement, we see them as the catalyst for long-term awareness and change and that is what we hope people contribute to and engage with, well beyond the symbolic hour of lights out.”
To save energy when doing household chores, keep it simple. A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department suggested eight ways to save energy and become more environmentally friendly.
1 Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
2 Use more compact fluorescent lights, which can save around
75 per cent more electricity than normal light bulbs.
Your air conditioner
3 Maintain room temperature at 25.5 degrees Celsius during summer.
4 Try using fans instead of the air con as much as possible.
5 Allow food to cool down to room temperature before putting it in the fridge.
6 Leave space between the fridge and surrounding walls so that air can circulate around the condenser coils. Trapped heat increases energy consumption.
The washing machine
About 90 per cent of the energy is used to heat the water, experts say.
7 Washing in cold water is not only more energy-efficient, it’s also better for your clothes.
8 At the very least, save the hot water cycle for your whites, and wash dark and coloured clothes in cold water.