Start from Us: 7 Steps to Address the Climate Crisis and its Impact on Vulnerable Communities
Author: Tesvara Suliani Jiang
● According to the NSIDC, the global sea level rose about 8 inches (20 centimeters) over the last century, and the rate of rising in the last 2 decades is nearly double the rate from last century.
● According to PSC, satellite data since the 1970s show a mean 3% decrease in arctic sea ice per decade. This means more water in the ocean, and less habitat for arctic land animals to live on.
In July 2021, deadly floods swept through Germany and Belgium, some of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced countries in Europe, and indeed, the world. The magnitude of the destruction in Germany is deeply heartbreaking, once again highlighting the consequences of climate change and the urgency of climate action.
To me and my family, this issue is deeply personal. My home country, Indonesia, a cluster of islands centered on the equator, is not only hit the hardest by global warming but also faces the grunt of rising sea levels.
The capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta, is the fastest sinking city in the world. With the Java Sea at its border, and 13 rivers running through it, it is also a frequent victim of floods. Each year, dozens of people are killed, and thousands of more houses are flooded by seawater up to 3 meters deep. In the last decade, North Jakarta sank 2.5 meters, and each year, Jakarta sinks an average of 1-15cm more. As of now, approximately half of the city sits below sea level.
Climate change is not Jakarta’s only problem. Because of Jakarta’s large population of 10 million residents and the city’s inability to supply piped-in drinking water for all, many residents are digging up illegal wells that are accelerating Jakarta’s sink into the sea. Drip by drip, poor residents of Jakarta, who are unable to secure adequate drinking water, are exhausting the city’s underground supply of water. According to the NY Times, this resembles “deflating a giant cushion.”
With climate change and illegal wells both in play, Michael Kimmelman from the NY Times says that 40% of Jakarta could be fully submerged by 2050, just 30 years from now.
Meanwhile, Jakarta is home to 10 million people of all social classes. Where will they go when their city is flooded by extreme weather or rising sea levels? How many can afford to move to places of higher altitudes? Again, the poor and underprivileged will be disproportionately affected by this societal dilemma. Those that needed to dig the illegal wells in the first place may be the last to get the help they need to stay safe from climate change.
To those who believe they are entirely unrelated to this problem, this similar issue of submerging land is actually a problem shared by all coastal areas: New York, Shanghai, Malaysia, the Philippines, and more. And more of us will be directly affected by climate change than we think. According to scientific research published by Nature Communications, 200 million people in the world will live below sea level by 2100. Even beyond rising sea levels, we all experience a variety of small consequences of climate change in our everyday life.
Have you ever noticed that each consecutive winter brings about fewer and fewer snow days? Have you noticed higher rates of natural disasters occurring in the news? How about how small sea fish like salmon are becoming increasingly more expensive? Maybe you haven’t noticed the last one, but climate change is a problem that we can no longer avoid. Global citizens like us have the responsibility to take action in order to protect the world that we live in.
What can we do to combat this?
Vital climate change action starts in our homes. There are many ways that we, as global citizens, can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment.
Carbon dioxide is released when oil, coal, and other fossil fuels are burned to produce energy— the energy we use to power our homes, cars, and our cellphones. By using less of it, we can significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that we produce. Here are 7 easy and effective ways each of us can shrink our carbon profile:
1) Transition to renewable energy
Consider installing solar panels on your home to save money and use renewable energy daily. Although this requires a large initial investment, many users report annual savings on energy, which offsets the initial investment, and soon you will start saving money. If this isn’t possible for you, choose a utility company that generates at least half of its power from renewable energy, and has been certified by Green-e Energy, an organization that evaluates sustainability in companies.
2) Reduce food waste
Approximately 10% of energy in the US goes towards the production, processing, packaging, and shipping of food products, with meat using a disproportionately larger amount of energy. However, a groundbreaking report from the NRDC shows that up to 40% of food produced in the US goes uneaten. That is an average of 400 pounds of annual food waste per person.2If each US family reduces food waste, huge amounts of energy could be saved.
3) Take more public transportation
Walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation whenever you can. You can save almost one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don’t drive.
4) Save water
The majority of most people’s daily water consumption comes from showering, and if you’re known to take 30 minute or longer showers, that is probably the case for you. It takes a lot of energy to pump, treat, and heat the tap water that is used in your home. So, transitioning to water-efficient showerheads, or just taking shorter showers overall can reduce your carbon footprint.
5) Replace bottled water, straws, and plastic forks with reusable alternatives
As restaurants slowly change to renewable packaging, action is still not happening fast enough. It is our responsibility to help by bringing bottled water, and refusing plastic utensils, especially if we plan on eating at home.
6) Plant trees
A single tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide in its lifetime. For fun and family-friendly activity, take a trip to a farm and plant a tree with your family!
7) Encourage family and friends to do the same!
Everyone needs to do their part in battling climate change. You can make an exponential impact on carbon emissions in your neighborhood by encouraging those around you to follow the above 6 steps, and finding even more ways to reduce your carbon footprint. We’re in this together!
The opinions expressed in this op-ed represent those of the author(s) only, and Inclusion Advocate's publication of it alone should not be taken as an endorsement.