The Ultimate 2020 Climate Update

Climate change, what 2020 taught us

A few days ago, an Instagram environmental activist page hopped on the bandwagon of a popular meme and pop culture trend which originated from ‘Spotify 2020 wrapped’ which consists of Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter users sharing their Spotify user summary listing their most listened songs and artists throughout 2020. Meme creators have used the same format and spun it off with their own twist, such as depreciating humor, or simply just sharing funny music. And in the case of @everythingclimatechange on Instagram, their twist was a 2020 update on the climate.

So let’s explore the 2020 Climate Wrapped

The average global temperature is 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels

What does ‘above pre-industrial levels’ mean? It means that average temperature (January 2020 to October 2020) is 1.2°C above the 1850–1900 baseline. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), scientists used a baseline to measure global temperatures – a time when fossil-fuel burning had yet to change the climate at such a high noticeable rate. At the moment the period between 1850 and 1900 is used which means that 1.5°C is the baseline. WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas stresses that as “There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C by 2024”.

Just because the average temperature hasn’t reached 1.5°C, it doesn’t mean that the effects are not serious or that we still have time. According to NASA, even if the temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C, sea level will continue to rise, as heat already stored in the oceans from human-produced warming causes them to expand.


The top corporate plastic polluters:

1. Coca-Cola

2. PepsiCo

3. Nestlé

According to the Guardian, these 3 brands were accused of “zero-progress” for the year 2020. Coca-Cola in particular turns out to pollute the earth with more plastic than PepsiCo and Nestlé combined. Coca-Cola produces about three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year, an equivalent to 200,000 bottles per minute.

In 2020, the company is still stern on producing single-use plastic bottled cola. Bea Perez, the Senior Vice President reasoned their decision, ‘Customers like them because they reseal and are lightweight’. The firm tried to compromise by making a pledge to recycle as many Coca-Cola bottles as possible. However, this does not appease environmental activists, as pledging ‘as much as possible’ means that there will still be tremendous amounts of plastic Coca-Cola bottles that end up in landfills and the sea.

4. Unilever

Unilever, one of the biggest multinational consumer goods companies which owns brands like Lipton, Rexona and Cif, have been revealed to produce 70,000 tonnes pollution footprint per year! Along with the brands mentioned above, the public claim that these companies lack a sense of morality for contributing such amounts of plastic pollution today. In response to this, Unilever has made a statement about their awareness and mentioned the commitments they want to partake in to reshape plastic use by 2025, such as halving their use of virgin plastic and and a reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use.

5. Mondelēz International

Out of the 5 companies, Mondelēz International seems to have made a lasting impression that they have become progressive and all in to reduce plastic pollution. Just by searching on Google “Mondelēz International’s plastic pollution” , the first two pages are filled with articles that are leaving positive and optimistic remarks. The American multinational food company, who owns companies like Cadbury, Oreo and Sour Patch Kids, have announced to collaborate across the industry to work on the policy, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). According to Britannica: EPR is a practice and a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers. Responsibility for disposal may be fiscal, physical, or a combination of the two.

Tadashi Kawamata’s artistic monument, Over Flow, to raise awareness about pollution in the ocean

Atmospheric CO2 levels reached a record high of 418.32 ppm (parts-per-million)

Even with the reduced carbon emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rate has not decreased and has stayed higher than 2019’s atmospheric CO2 level (414.7 ppm). This begs the question, how much higher would the rate be today if there was no Covid-19?

The pandemic has been great to force a steep decrease on carbon emissions. In 2020, the global carbon emission rate has dropped to 7% as less people are traveling in transportation and factories had to go through a shut down as people isolate themselves. However, this jarring decrease is only temporary and is not as effective as it sounds. The secretary general of World Meteorological Organization (WMO) noted that: “The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve”

What we should take from this is that for the environment to get better again, it has to be a global effort. And perhaps, it would take some sacrifices. click this for some blogs that could suggest you ways how to help!

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef experiences its 3rd mass coral bleaching in 5 years

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found that 25 percent of the overall reef was severely bleached. Worse, the bleaching reached the coastal sides. Just as related to the carbon emissions mentioned above, bleaching of the coral reef happens because of rapid warming of the planet.

According to EcoWorld, the Great Barrier Reef indeed bleaches from time to time due to natural seasonal warming of the planet. However, in the case of 2002 and 2017, it was definitely our fault, just like for this year’s mass coral bleaching too. 2020’s coral mass bleaching was not the largest in terms of the span of corals bleaching, but rather was the second most severe on record. According to CNN, scientists found the damages are likely to be lasting and irreparable.

Apart from carbon emissions, other factors such as cosmetic chemicals also contribute to bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, especially sunscreen (read more about how sunscreens damage the corals)


This is the hottest decade on record, with the hottest six years occurring since 2015

According to the Guardian, the past decade was the hottest, and 2019 comes in top three for the hottest year. It is no news that the world gets hotter by each decade since the pre-industrial era. However The average rise in temperature per decade is 0.7°C, and for this decade, the average had increased to a whopping of 0.39°C.

Because of 2019’s rising temperature and an expected lack of progress, Karin Gleason, a NOAA climatologist said 2020 was suspected to become hotter and beat 2016 by 75%, 2016’s record – global temperature mean (0.99°C / 1.78°F), the hottest temperature recorded in 2016 was 51.0°C / 123.8°F in India. However, due to the pandemic, the percentage had decreased to 50%


California’s record-breaking wildfire season

The 2020 California Wildfire Season is currently an ongoing fire crisis.

In mid September, no one expected a gender-reveal party would be the cause of one of the top biggest wildfires of California, ever. As gender-reveal parties have become more trendy and a ‘once in a lifetime’, this family wanted to make sure they hold one that would become memorable by using a ‘pyrotechnic device’, starting the El Dorado Fire. Before that, California’s forests have been burning as well as normal, the common hot and dry weather of California plays a part.

The ongoing fire is not only life-threatening to the residents of California, but it was extremely detrimental to the environment. Especially in Covid-19, firefighters are not only under risk of extinguishing fires but also of contracting the virus. California will always have wildfires in 2020. It has started since May in Kings, the named fire, Interstate 5 has burned 2,060 acres. In August, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that the state was burning from 367 known fires, many of which were sparked by intense thunderstorms. According to Cal Fire over 9,639 fires have burned 4,359,517 acres

What scientists concluded was that “fire seasons like this one will be more common as drier, hotter conditions wrought by climate change continue to result in larger, more intense fires” the last recorded wildfire was in December 13 at Riverside


The top polluting countries are

China

China’s growth has been powered by the cheap and extremely polluting fossil fuel, coal, which is the power source to people’s homes and also industries and factories that sell lots of exports. The use of coal has contributed to the worst case of air pollution in China. According to Environment-Ecology, 75% of the premature deaths are caused by the 152 coal-fired power plants in Hebei Province.

United States

According to Active Sustainability, The US is “the biggest industrial and commercial power”. Even with active commitment and effort to reduce pollution, the US still ranks in second place as big cities are still producing emissions and recently, rural area are beginning to be affected.

India

Same as China, India’s industrialization main energy source is burning of the fossil fuels. According to the World Health Organization, 14 out of 15 most polluted cities are part of India. The Indian Express shows the pollution in India is caused by industrial pollution (51%), vehicles (27%), crop burning (17%) and fireworks (5%).

Russia

Corrosion Doctors says that power-plants in Russia “lack modern pollution control equipment, resulting in large amounts of toxic emissions and waste” As being another country with huge industrial demands, Russia is dependent on cheap and polluting fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas.

Japan

Japan has a reputation of modern and progressive urban development and industrialization. According to AZO Cleantech, Japan’s rapid growth has been beginning since the 19th century, therefore the dependence on coal, wood and gas produces a lot of emissions and waste.

China is one of the biggest countries in the world, yet you can only see so much due to the air pollution

Conclusion:

#2020climatewrapped

@everythingclimatechange was very direct with their conclusion. Essentially, the planet is not getting better and to prevent an irreversible consequence, we have to give effort now.

Reversing of climate change and reducing of pollution is no new topic. We are/were taught about it in schools and are encouraged to make better choices for the environment by people around us and in the media.

The pandemic has let us isolate ourselves and reflect on what is a necessity and creative ways we can introduce into our new life schedule that could help with the issue.


References:

 “2020 on track to be one of three warmest years on record ….” 2 Dec. 2020, https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/2020-track-be-one-of-three-warmest-years-record. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

 “A Degree of Concern: Why Global Temperatures Matter ….” 19 Jun. 2019, https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2865/a-degree-of-concern-why-global-temperatures-matter/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

“Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé named top plastic polluters for ….” 7 Dec. 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/07/coca-cola-pepsi-and-nestle-named-top-plastic-polluters-for-third-year-in-a-row. Accessed 13 Dec. 2020.

 “People still want plastic bottles, says Coca-Cola – BBC News.” 21 Jan. 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51197463. Accessed 11 Dec. 2020.

“Rethinking plastic packaging – towards a circular … – Unilever.” https://www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/reducing-environmental-impact/waste-and-packaging/rethinking-plastic-packaging/. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“Mondelēz International Supports Global Harmonization on ….” 4 Nov. 2020, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/11/04/2120162/0/en/Mondel%C4%93z-International-Supports-Global-Harmonization-on-Plastics-Recycling-Calls-for-Collaborative-Action-on-Flexible-Films.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“extended producer responsibility | Definition … – Britannica.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/extended-producer-responsibility. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Global carbon emissions down by record 7% in 2020 – DW.” 11 Dec. 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/global-carbon-emissions-down-by-record-7-in-2020/a-55900887. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Carbon dioxide levels hit new record; COVID impact ‘a tiny ….” 23 Nov. 2020, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1078322. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “2020 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Event Is Most … – EcoWatch.” 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.ecowatch.com/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-2645655957.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Great Barrier Reef suffers third mass bleaching event in five ….” 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/07/australia/great-barrier-reef-bleaching-2020-intl-hnk/index.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“Last decade was Earth’s hottest on record as climate crisis ….” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/12/hottest-decade-climate-crisis-2019. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

 “Scientists Predict Scorching Temperatures to Last Through ….” 18 Jun. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/climate/summer-weather-prediction.html. Accessed 17 Dec. 2020.

“What started California’s largest wildfires of 2020?.” 1 Oct. 2020, https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2020/10/01/california-wildfires-2020-causes-august-complex-fire-lightning/5881552002/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Gender-Reveal Party Is Blamed in California Wildfire – The ….” 18 Sept. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/us/gender-reveal-party-wildfire.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Fires In California Burn On As Firefighters Risk COVID To ….” 21 Aug. 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/08/21/904552759/wildfires-rage-on-in-california-as-fire-crews-and-evacuees-grapple-with-covid-ri. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Interstate 5 Fire – Cal Fire – CA.gov.” 3 May. 2020, https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/5/3/interstate-5-fire/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“National Large Incident Year-to-Date Report – GACC-NIFC.” 20 Aug. 2020, https://gacc.nifc.gov/sacc/predictive/intelligence/NationalLargeIncidentYTDReport.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “The science of how climate change impacts fires in the West.” 17 Sept. 2020, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/09/climate-change-increases-risk-fires-western-us/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Welcome to Incident – Cal Fire – CA.gov.” https://www.fire.ca.gov/incident/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “Air Pollution in China – Environment – Ecology.” http://www.environment.gen.tr/pollution/766-air-pollution-in-china.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

 “Top 5 most polluting countries – Active Sustainability.” https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/top-5-most-polluting-countries/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Want govt to build 1,600 km green wall along Aravalli, says ….” 24 Dec. 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/want-govt-to-build-1600-km-green-wall-along-aravalli-says-activist-vijaypal-baghel-6182069/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“Corrosion and pollution in Russia – Corrosion Doctors.” https://corrosion-doctors.org/AtmCorros/mapRussia.htm. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

“How Japan is Tackling Pollution – AZoCleantech.com.” 19 Aug. 2019, https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=918. Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

World Soil Day: How cosmetics and fast fashion destroy the soil

World Soil Day is an international event hosted by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), they aim to “Keep soil alive, Protect soil biodiversity” by addressing the cause and alleviate soil biodiversity loss.

Before we get into how cosmetic products harm the environment. We should first understand why our soil is dying.

Soil Degradation

According to the NSW, soil degradation ‘is the decline in soil condition caused by its improper use or poor management, usually for agricultural, industrial or urban purposes’. Soil degradation is certainly a natural regressive evolution process which can be caused by wind or water erosion. However, according to Pimentel et. al.’s study on soil erosion, the damages has increased by 17 times in the USA just because of modern cultivation alone. They added that it would take an investment of 6.4 billion USD to reduce this rate of increase.

The European Environmental Agency has referenced The Tutzing Project of 1998 mentioning that in humid climates, it takes up to 500 years on average for the formation of only 2.5 cm of soil. Therefore at this rate, this important finite source cannot beat the damages in time.

How cosmetics and fast fashion contributes to the damage?

According to the BBC, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year, by 2030, it is expected that more than 134 million tonnes of textiles a year will be discarded. Aside from non-environmental friendly packaging and production. When cosmetics and fast fashion items get improperly dumped, it becomes toxic and damages the soil underneath. In addition, the production for these industries also has a high demand of raw materials to be extracted from the soil. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world.

Aside from the toxic product, synthetic cotton which can slowly cause organ damages in the long-term. The production of synthetic cotton is damaging to the soil. Using these synthetic fertilizers is not the big problem, the problem is the combination of this use and high demands. In these synthetic N-P-K (nitrogenphosphoruspotassium) fertilizers, it harms the water under the soil by producing more and grows algae at a faster rate in which the ecosystem cannot handle. In addition, production of synthetic cotton harms the surrounding land too, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that are sprayed on the crop travels through air to the surrounding area, when pesticides go through the ground, eroding the soil.

Polyester is non-biodegradable, meaning discarded polyester fabrics and clothes will not break down easily in landfills, which could become a hazard to land and soil animals. A research was done specifically studying the effects of polyester fibers on the important soil decomposers food web animals. The results show a negative effect on the animal’s energy reserves, ingestion and a decrease of 30% in reproduction rate. Although the conclusion was that the effect is slight, polyester still creates a long-term effect on these soil invertebrates by disrupting the decomposition process. In addition, when polyester clothing is washed, the fabric sheds and the micro plastics are washed down the drain, ending up in aquatic habitats.

According to the American Chemical Society, traces of Siloxanes are found in soil and aquatic life. Siloxanes are simply a class of liquid silicon that is found in skincare products, hair products and makeup. Environment Canada reported that the chemical compounds of siloxanes are toxic to the environment, found as to bioaccumulate in the environment.

Extraction of Mica is not only a real issue of illicit child labour use but it is also an environmental issue. Natural Mica that are used to make shiny pigments to create makeup products like eyeshadows and highlighters goes through a process of mining. Mining does not only pollute air, but it scars habitats and creates an irreversible soil structure damage. Companies like Lush have now converted to only using Synthetic Mica – Lush Creative Buyer Gabbi Loedolff says “Even though it is synthesised in a lab, it is constructed of natural minerals, so you don’t end up with the problem of microplastics which can end up in the oceans and water supplies.”

Triclosan which are found in hand sanitizers and household products are not only harmful to aquatic life but also damages the soil. This FDA banned chemical has been found to disrupt the nitrogen cycle in soil. This means that the affected soil has fertility damage, causing plants to go yellow and die. When Triclosan reaches to a waterway, it accumulates and reacts with other chemicals to make dioxins which are toxic.

Aquatic pollution is also Soil pollution

As much more research on cosmetics and textile toxic chemicals leads to a greater amount of aquatic pollution results. It is important to note that water and soil are dependent on each other as an ecosystem. Observably, chemicals that leak into waterways come from the soil and polluted toxic water goes back to soil, ending up in our crops, killing vulnerable animals and microorganisms. Hence, becoming another statistic that contributes to the rapid increase of soil degradation.

Make smarter choices to protect our environment!

References:

“Why clothes are so hard to recycle I BBC Future” https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200710-why-clothes-are-so-hard-to-recycle Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “World Soil Day | Food and Agriculture Organization of the ….” http://www.fao.org/world-soil-day/en/. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Soil degradation – Environment.Nsw.Gov.Au – NSW Government.” 25 Jul. 2019, https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/land-and-soil/soil-degradation. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Why Soil Matters – YouTube.” 3 Nov. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kZXulLobA8. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Environmental and Economic Costs of Soil Erosion and ….” 11 Apr. 2004, http://www.rachel.org/files/document/Environmental_and_Economic_Costs_of_Soil_Erosi.pdf. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “3.6. Soil degradation – European Environment Agency.” https://www.eea.europa.eu/ds_resolveuid/KPU6HFDMO1. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost … – UN News.” 25 Mar. 2019, https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/03/1035161. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Why Is Cotton Harmful to the Soil? | Hunker.” https://www.hunker.com/12505119/why-is-cotton-harmful-to-the-soil. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Is Too Much Fertilizer a Problem? · Frontiers for Young Minds.” 20 May. 2020, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/486326. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Exploring the impacts of plastics in soil – The effects of ….” 15 Jan. 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969719344420. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Siloxane D4 (Cyclotetrasiloxane, octamethyl-) – Canada.ca.” 10 Feb. 2012, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/challenge/batch-2/cyclotetrasiloxane-octamethyl.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Siloxane D5 (Cyclopentasiloxane, decamethyl-) – Canada.ca.” 10 Feb. 2012, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/challenge/batch-2/cyclopentasiloxane-decamethyl.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “FAQ on Lush and mica – Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics UK.” https://uk.lush.com/article/faq-lush-and-mica. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Triclosan: its occurrence, fate and effects in the … – PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21330702/. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

You Can Save the Environment by Going Vegan

We are facing an ecological crisis, with climate change labeled as the “world’s gravest environmental threat”, according to PETA. Naturally, we feel the duty to do our part in solving the issue, however, that feeling of helplessness lead us to the million dollar question: where do we start? This crisis of consciousness has led to people opting for energy making slight changes in their life, however, it is not enough. According to a study conducted by Oxford researchers, going vegan is a lifestyle change that can provide a significant help to this environmental catastrophe.

“If you’re serious about protecting the environment, the most important thing that you can do is stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy “products”. – PETA

Vegan pancakes!

How do animals contribute to the environmental crisis?

Greenhouse gas emissions

Products of agricultural farming include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which are greenhouse gases that are the primary culprits behind global warming. UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2019) has also backed up the claim that vegan diets have the most potential to reduce greenhouse emissions as meat and dairy contribute up to 60% of agriculture’s green house emissions on their own.

vegan noodles

Carbon dioxide: According to PETA, it takes about “11 times as much fossil fuel to produce a calorie of animal protein as it does to produce a calorie of grain protein”. It is a no brainer, that it is more climate efficient to obtain products produced from plant based sources. Ruminant animal pastures for meat and diary accounted for 72% of carbon while croplands that serve as animal feed contributed to another 28%.

Methane: Methane is 25% as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, hence it is in our interest to reduce the production of methane any chance we have. Ruminants produce gas while they digest their food and is also found in their feces.

Nitrous oxide: Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. According to a report by the UN, meat, egg and dairy industries are responsible for up to 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.

Land

If everyone stopped eating meat, global farmland use could be “reduced by 75%, equivalent to the size of US, Europe and China combined,” according to Independent. Besides drastically reducing greenhouse emissions, it would lessen the rate of deforestation, in turn allowing ecosystems to thrive and prevent the gradual extinction of species resulting from their loss of habitats.

Pollution

According to a study conducted by PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Hog and dairy farms spray their fields with waste produced by the animals. This is a health hazard as air particles filled with bacteria are blown into commercial homes, potentially infecting families and causing a stench. Furthermore, waste sprayed on the field leak into rivers and streams, potentially messing with the balance of the ecosystem and poisoning aquatic life, which is pretty ironic considering that same poisoned seafood end up on our plates.

Statistical models showed that cutting meat and diary products from one’s diet can reduce one’s carbon footprint up to 73%, which is better than cutting down flights, buying electric cars, or opting for sustainable meat and dairy, according to a source from Independent. A study from Oxford shows that meat eaters were responsible for up to more than half as many dietary greenhouse gas emissions than vegetarians and up to 102% more than vegans. A global shift is vital to turn the clock around. Try to make altercations in your diet, such as choosing to go meatless or vegan on one or two designated days per week. Every little effort counts!