Earth in an oven graphic

Human impact on the environment is the plague of the twenty-first century. International boundaries have been crossed to form the Kyoto Protocol, countries are implementing carbon taxes and even companies like Starbucks are taking an initiative to ban straws by 2020. Nonetheless, college students don’t regard climate change as seriously as they should, since this upcoming generation is going to inherit a world intoxicated with pollutants, and it will become our problem. Thus, it is our duty to ourselves and our planet to start taking climate change seriously.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nation’s body providing scientific information on climate change and its political and economic impacts. Scientists and experts around the world come together to collaborate on research and write reports on human-induced climate change for over a hundred countries. The October 2018 report revealed, “we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes.” Due to the conditions now, the new report argues for limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to the previously popular 2°C.

The report states by limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the global sea level rise could be 10 centimeters lower than the expected, coral reefs could be somewhat preserved versus virtually losing them entirely and the Arctic Ocean could retain a higher concentration of sea ice during summers.

However, this initiative requires rapid transitions. According to the IPCC, “Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030.” Thus, in order to prevent future challenges to human health and ecosystems, we need to start implementing impactful changes now.

As mere university students, it may appear that no action will make a difference. Nonetheless, a series of small actions can spark a significant change. The University of Georgia Office of Sustainability brings together students across all disciplines to work together on projects, such as UGArden and Watershed UGA, to create a greener campus and it encourages students to get involved in programs to help restore the earth. The office promotes student-run organizations such as Chew Crew, which uses goats to get rid of invasive plant species in Athens, and Greek Goes Green in which fraternities and sororities carry out initiatives to reduce waste and increase sustainability.

The myriad of events and programs are successful thanks to students passionate about sustainability and protecting the environment, and there are multiple outlets through the Office of Sustainability through which any university student can get involved.

In the midst of classes and extracurriculars, it’s easy to forget about climate change. However, it’s our duty to be educated and educate others about human impact on the earth. While the big picture problem remains to be solved, we can start small by turning the lights off, only doing full loads of laundry and taking the stairs instead of the elevator to conserve energy and reduce electricity usage.

Other small changes could include taking shorter showers, turning off the tap when brushing and fixing leaks to reduce wasting waste and using alternative modes of transportation such as the bus or even carpooling to minimize emissions. Recycling is typically given the most attention, but it’s more important we begin reducing the non-biodegradable products we use.  

It may not seem like much, but at least it’s doing something. Our planet has given so much, so it’s humanity’s turn to start giving back.

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