3 October 2017 - The global and inevitable problem of climate change is hiding a powerful unifying potential in itself. Greenhouse effect does not distinguish nationalities, languages, gender or political views. No country or block can solve this problem by itself. It clearly demonstrates how we depend on each other.

Originally published in Ukrainska Pravda on September 29, 2017

The global and inevitable problem of climate change is hiding a powerful unifying potential in itself. Greenhouse effect does not distinguish nationalities, languages, gender or political views. No country or block can solve this problem by itself. It clearly demonstrates how we depend on each other.

Can humanity change its way of life so that it can save the planet from the worst consequences of climate change? From catastrophes, famine, resettlement, wars? If we take into account that human lifestyle itself is the main cause of greenhouse effect on the Earth, the answer is obvious – yes, we can start changing the situation right now.

The most effective personal action for each of us would be adopting a full or partial veganism, and supporting initiatives to overcome the problem of climate change. In this article we will explain in more detail why we do believe it to be effective and which steps could be taken to solve the problem.

What threats does climate change pose?

It is hard to find even one living creature on the planet that will not be affected by climate change. Looking at the list of consequences of the greenhouse effect, each of us can analyze which of them can touch us personally or put at risk our families.

Natural Disasters. The increasing number of hurricanes, droughts, abnormal heat and cold, general increase in average temperature on planet are the consequences of greenhouse effect.

Victims among the civilian population. When natural disasters like hurricanes hit, vulnerable categories of civilian population become the easy target, being often unable to respond quickly to the approaching cataclysm. Among them elderly people, sick patients of hospitals, small children, people with special needs etc.

Increasing number of refugees. The melting of glaciers causes an increase in the ocean level and drainage of coastal areas. Millions of people lose their homes and are forced to move deep into the continents. The climate migrants also appear in areas that do not have evident access to the sea. In particular, melting of the mountains tops, droughts and other natural disasters lead people to escape from areas that are deeply inside the continents.

Rise of unemployment. People, who are forced to leave their habitual homes with normal conditions of existence, face a new place of residence where there is no request for their profession or there is a huge competition.

This can be demonstrated in modern Ukrainian realities: the miner who was forced to move from Donetsk to Poltava faces the need to master a new profession and is often forced to become temporarily unemployed.

Hunger, poverty, outbreaks of epidemics. These problems hit vulnerable groups who do not have enough savings for medical care and building a new life.

For example, peasants who were partly or completely dependent on the harvest in their plots, were forced to be separated from the land, could face hunger and poverty.

Fight for resources. With the increase of certain regions’ population due to climate immigrants, the most likely scenario is a struggle between different groups for access to drinking water, food and other resources. On the global level it could cause international conflicts and wars.

Mass extinction of species. The slow course of evolution did not prepare anyone for a rapid increase of average temperatures. A large share of living species are not able to adapt to climate change and are doomed to extinction.

Some readers can read this list as science fiction, describing events of a distant future. But, unfortunately, each of these problems is happening right now, in these very moments.

The increased number of natural disasters causes casualties among the civilian population. Millions of people move from islands and coastal areas. Scientists have recorded the beginning of the largest extinction of species since the era of disappearance of dinosaurs. Every day nearly 110 species of animals and insects are disappearing.

Humanity has not seen problems of such magnitude for tens of thousands of years of its existence. These challenges are impressive, and to spice up how to overcome them, let us look at the main causes of climate change.

Why the climate changes?

This question does not lead to broad discussions. More than 97% of scientists studying this issue declare that climate changes are consequences of mankind activity.

The cause of climate change is the greenhouse effect, caused by significant emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. First of all, it is about methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.

Greenhouse gases have different impact on the greenhouse effect. The most dangerous among them is methane. During the last century, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere has increased more than threefold through human activity.

Which gases fall into the atmosphere? The big amount of methane and nitrous oxide falls into atmosphere as a side effect of the activity of industrial livestock.

FAO evaluates the share of industrial livestock in total greenhouse gas emissions on the level of 14-18%.

At the same time independent analytical center Worldwatch Institute points to a lot of mistakes in the generally accepted estimates. According to its research with careful consideration of all the factors, the impact of agroindustry is 51%, which means that it is the main cause of climate change.

According to their estimates, all transport, energy and any other industries of the world together harm less than agroindustry.

In other words, to a large extent, the future of all living being of the planet Earth depends on what we eat.

Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Changes or IPCC estimates the influence of agroindustry in greenhouse effect on the level of 24%, more than of all existing transport (1%) or heating of households (14%) and is almost equal to the electricity and heat industry (25%).

Personal actions of everyone: change yourself, not climate

Since climate change is caused by human activity, it means that a key to stop the horrible rate of greenhouse effect on the planet and reducing the negative effects of this process is in our hands.

We are aware that for someone the personal steps which specialists do offer to reduce their personal impact on the greenhouse effect seem to be too daring or even radical in some part. But we are living in a moment when we have to be brave. Humanity has not yet faced such challenges.

We can also think of our responsibility to our neighbours on the planet: without exaggeration we are talking about life or death of many living beings.

Of course, these steps will have a significant effect only if the population will support them. Therefore, by adopting them you will not only reduce your personal impact on the greenhouse effect, but also provide an example to those around you, which is definitely important to attract as many people as possible to tackle this problem.

Healthy eating and responsible consumption seems to be the most effective personal action in everyday life for those who want to reduce their influence on the greenhouse effect. If you are having difficulties in giving up immediately all industrial livestock products, please try to choose one or two days per week when you can live without them.

The former Chair of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Dr Rajendra Pachauri described the decline in meat consumption as “the most attractive opportunity” for immediate action to prevent catastrophic climate change.

“The global shift of humanity to the vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, poverty and the worst effects of climate change,” it is said in the UN report quoted by The Guardian.

Additionally, the WHO classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans.

Recently, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (USA) authoritatively stated that a “well balanced vegan diet is healthy, nutritious and can provide benefits for people’s health during all periods of their life. It seems to be right for women, elderly people, also for sportsmen”.

The scientists of «Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency» believe that humankind had to exercise vegetarian or vegan diet, or at least to reduce in several times the consumption of meat. It will help to reduce pastures on 80%, reduce carbon dioxide emissions on 17%, of methane on 24%, on 21%. In addition, it will decrease load on global water supply, 8% of which goes on meat production.

Walking and riding a bicycle. Even if you have your own car, it is not necessary to abuse using its services. To travel around the city, for the climate it is better to use a bicycle and to walk on foot.

Energy efficiency. Saving resources could be achieved by winterization of windows, doors, houses and all other measures that reduce energy consumption in households.

Local food eating. For the climate it is better to give preferences to local products, especially due to the fact that less fuel is used for their transportation. Consequently, the carbon footprint is reduced. Organic or farmer food will be more ecological since no artificial fertilizers will be used in farming.

Support of initiatives and leaders dealing with the issues of environment protection. Follow the activities of public initiatives and organizations that promote the information on the development of climate change, join the activist groups. In Ukraine, such associations are public organizations One Planet, Eco-center, UMKA, Filia 350.org etc.

Please ask the local deputy on the measures of wider implementation and usage of alternative energy sources in your area. Before electing a candidate for an elected office please clarify how the implementation of his program can harm the environment or on the contrary will help to overcome climate change.

Measures on State and International Level

The Paris Agreement was adopted by all 196 parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 12, 2015 in Paris.

By this Agreement all countries commit to take actions to ensure that the increase in global temperature will be much less than 2 Celsius degrees, and taking into account the seriousness of existing risks – to strive to limit the increase to 1,5 degrees with the temperature level.

The Agreement is a roadmap of measures that will reduce emissions and enhance climate resilience.

However, it is worth noting that during these two years the rate of increase in average temperature did not slow down.

A request from society for its state’s active steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would stimulate governments to take real actions to overcome the problem.

These include reducing use of fossil fuels in the public sector, switching to alternative energy sources, encouraging the private sector to take appropriate actions. Also it includes conducting explanatory work on the measures that can be taken by different segments of the populations to reduce the greenhouse effect.

Some UN specialists consider it necessary to introduce environment taxes on the meat production and meat: “All of the harmful effects on the environment and on health needs to be priced into food products,” - said Maarten Hajer, a member of the UN’s International Resource Panel, which comprises 34 top scientists and 30 governments.

We can save the planet only together

The global and inevitable problem of climate change conceals a powerful unifying potential. Overcoming the challenges facing all living on the planet is only possible if a set of measures is implemented, some of which are mentioned above.

The climatologists’ conclusions are clear: either we change our way of life or climate change will change the planet right in front of us. An equally important condition is that these measures are jointly implemented by the majority of human beings.

Greenhouse effect does not distinguish nationalities, languages, gender or political views. No country can solve this problem on its own and it clearly demonstrates on how we depend on each other.

To attract the wider population to personal actions educational and explanatory work of public organizations is necessary. For the period of September, 30 to October, 01 2017 there will be an Educational zone of ‘One Planet’ in the framework of Vegan Boom festival in Kyiv to take place at the address: 12 Desyatynna str. The event will be held with the support of UNDP and International Centre for Policy Studies. Lectures, panel discussions, interactive activities will increase the education of the population in the issue of climate change.

About the authors

Pavlo Vyshebaba, co-founder and Council's member of CO "Yedyna Planeta", Janthomas Hiemstra, UNDP Country Director