Beyond emissions in climate change

There is a lot of focus on emissions in climate change literature and news. However, it is not the only problem we are dealing with regarding climate change. While the recent light shed on climate change has increased population’s awareness of the matter, focussing on emissions narrows the understanding of climate change for the broad public. A list of other challenges that need to be tackled to live decently in the future:

  • Microplastics. Tiny particles of plastics delivered throughout a plastic product’s lifetime. They are smaller than 5mm and challenging because they cannot be caught by filters. They enter waterways before being filtered out. Clothes are often made out of plastic materials, so are cleaning products and many beauty products too. Apps such as “beat the microbead” can be used to find suitable products. It is estimated that we ingest a bank card’s worth of plastic every week. We don’t know what this does to our body yet but animals washed onto our shores don’t seem to be doing great from plastics. (Bottled water is much worse than tap for your information)
  • Biodiversity. The food chain was pretty well set up until we started bringing new ecosystems and plastics onto this planet. If a predator’s population diminishes, the prey will thrive. On the other side, if a prey’s population increases, it will reduce its prey’s population and impact the habitat. Biodiversity is also important for the interactions between fauna and flora. For instance, bees populations allow plants to reproduce and without them we would not grow food.
  • Water scarcity. Much of the water on this planet is not drinkable as it is salty but also can be contaminated.
  • Food waste. Our current rate of food waste is 30% of the food produced (roughly 1trillion USD). The food is wasted all throughout the supply chain but the largest majority is in households as the below example shows.
Food Waste in Global Production: An Initial Brainstorm to map and Evaluate  Existing Mechanisms of Governance
University of Warwick
  • Water pollution. Needless to say we need water to survive but chemicals, waste and human organic waste are polluting our waters. In some countries human wastes are discarded directly onto water ways leading to disease and pollution.
  • Air pollution. This is quite different from emissions. Air pollution is due to tiny particules present in the air making it toxic to breath. It can be due to cars, fertilizers, chemical factories, construction material, sandy wind etc. You will be astonished to find that it kills 7 million people worldwide every year and 3.1m pupils go to school in areas of high pollution in England only. Indoor air is even more polluted than outdoors due to artificial fragrances, chemicals in cleaning products, candles etc.
  • Noise pollution. This is definitely overlooked. We can admit that a high level of noise will have an impact on our lives but also sea life creatures such as dolphins who rely on echolocation to communicate. High level of noise impacts animals who use sound to navigate, mate or avoid predators, once again impacting the biodiversity.

I hope we can all keep in mind the broader picture of climate change when trying to tackle it. It is quite likely that you cannot act on all sides but extremely likely there is something you can improve in your current life or lobby for!


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