This Saturday, people the world over will unite to take part in Earth Hour 2018 – a 60 minute lights-off, to show support for our wonderful planet and the fight we all have against climate change. But what is it all about?
Using less energy is just one example of how we can reduce our impact, as humans, on the planet. Last year, a whopping nine million people took part in Earth Hour in the UK alone. This year, the 60 minute lights-off session will begin at 20:30 on Saturday 24 March. It has become such a notable event, that even the world’s biggest landmarks – like Buckingham Palace, the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower will also switch off their lights in solidarity. This is something we can all get involved in.
So, what exactly is ‘climate change’?
The planet’s atmosphere is getting warmer. This is what we know as climate change. Unfortunately, it is human activity – such as burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), widespread agricultural farming and cutting down forests – that is polluting our atmosphere which, in turn, is causing this warming.
According to WWF-UK, the planet has warmed by an average of nearly 1°C in the past century. This rise in temperature has made a huge difference to our natural world by causing ice caps to melt and our sea levels to rise as a result. This has led to more changes, including:
- Loss of habitat and hunting grounds for wildlife such as penguin species and Polar bears.
- Extreme, unpredictable weather becoming more common; including strong typhoons, severe droughts, flooding, and increased ice and snow.
- Water erosion along coastlines, again causing habitat loss for wildlife and human communities.
- Warmer seas causing coral bleaching and, in turn, loss of marine habitats.
In many cases, environments are changing faster than our wildlife and flora can adapt. As a result, our living species are at risk.
Is it as serious as people say?
In short, yes. According to the ‘Living Planet’ report by WWF-UK, in the last 30 years, 1 in 6 of the planet’s species have become at risk of extinction purely because of climate change. Please understand, this figure does not include the numbers lost through poaching, trophy-hunting and over-fishing. Those are additional.
The report also states a reduction in 50% of land species populations in the same timeframe, while 80% of freshwater species have also declined. These are changes that have happened with a temperature rise of 1°C. According to scientific studies, we are on course for temperature rises of up to as much as 4°C or higher. That is scary stuff.
What we must understand is that we, as humans, will also be affected more severely. We are already experiencing more extreme and unpredictable weather systems. But our ecosystems depend on each other for long-term survival – from the tiniest of microorganisms at the bottom of the food chain, to top predators like us. Now – more than ever – the health of our planet, the lives of the animals and plants and our future generations are at risk. If we don’t act, we could see entire species die out during our lifetime – and we are condemning our grandchildren and great grandchildren too.
What can I do?
We can’t undo the damage that has already been done. However, we can stop it getting worse. Because if we don’t who else will?
This year, as well as showing solidarity by taking part in Earth Hour, WWF are asking us to make a Promise for the Planet. Each promise means a small, easy change to our lifestyle in a way that is approachable for everyone – and the change can be made today. Whether it’s ditching disposable coffee cups for a reusable cup or saying ‘no’ to plastic cutlery, straws and cups – there are so many ways in which to take part. The idea is to greatly reduce all kinds of pollution. With nearly eight million people in the world, imagine the difference we could make with just one small change each.
You know what’s amazing? For every single promise made, washing detergent brand Ariel has pledged to donate £1 to WWF-UK – so they can continue to fight for and protect our planet. It costs nothing to make your promise. Just think of the difference we can make if everyone made and kept just one promise each.
Find out more about WWF-UK’s work to fight climate change.
Get involved in Earth Hour 2018 by switching your lights off for 60 minutes, this Saturday 24 March at 20:30. Make your Promise for the Planet.