Brief description of the unit: In this unit you will learn the main concepts about climate change, especially when it comes to everyday issues, like quality of the air, usage of air conditioning, and anything related to why the world is facing a progressive heating condition. What is more, you will learn how to deal with climate change, reflecting on different habits and make sure to see how being retired and being active from the environmental point of view are compatible!
To recognise the main topics around climate change and environmental facts, as well as describe the main concepts of sustainability. Recognise the main benefits about sustainability and healthier lifestyle. Appreciate a critical approach to main environmental facts.
- Recognise the importance of climate change and its daily consequences
- Navigate through the environmental jargon
- Get acquainted with the main EU environmental policies
Keywords: climate change, environmental activism, EU policies
Expected time: 6 hours
2. Climate change
In our everyday lives, we see big changes or news as something which is far away from what we experience. However, climate change is something that is somehow “invisible”, but it happens. For example, the temperature raising in our cities? Or the extreme floods during some moments of the year, and that’s when we say “springs and autumns are not the same anymore!”. This chapter sets essentials of “climate change” and “environmental facts” that could help you to navigate through concepts that are blurred or not clear, bridging the gap between the world’s big picture and your everyday habits.
What is climate change? Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, as well as human, especially since the 19th century, due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil and gas). The usage of these materials bring Still, our society is mainly fuelled by oil and gas, hence when we switch on lights, charge our phone, watch tv, drive our cars, etc we are somehow backing up this system. Renewable energies, meaning any energy that comes from infinite sources, like wind, the sun, or the water streams, are a minority, and unevenly distributed to the many technical problems due to their current implementation.
Why is it so important to know about climate change? The change of temperatures, the different heating, the unforeseen floods etc. have an immense impact on older adults, as older adults are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change because as people age, our bodies are less able to compensate for the effects of certain environmental hazards, like air pollution or extreme weather, or physically one is not able to react promptly, and less resilient to new illnesses (like covid19, for example).
The good news is that climate change can be tackled, and can be ‘governed’ through complementary action between governments, technologies, and everyday work of citizens. In this sense, being “environmentally active” does not only mean to “go out and protest”, but means to engage in significant and little actions on a daily basis that can substantially change the way we see the world, our neighbors, our town or neighborhood etc.
What are the current impacts of climate change?
Effects can be diverse, and contrasting. From one side, some areas on the Earth will gain a better climate, others will suffer from icing cold, and others will be flooded or will be disappearing underwater. The current species of plants and animals will be in danger, and have deep impacts on daily lives, the food we enjoy, or the areas we usually hang out at. The effects are not limited in time, as climate change puts a generational risk that it is still hard to tell. Certainly, it will make our world poorer, making the competition of resources even more complicated, especially for the future generations.
Human bingo (Activity 1)
How green are you?
Activities for reflection
- Can you recall some extreme floods in your area that happened recently? What were their effects? Do you recall them in the past as well? Do you see any differences?
- Check on Google “temperature series” and try to check by yourself how temperatures are changing. What do you think?
3. Main terms in environmental action
Let’s check out some basic terminology that you will come across:
- Sustainability: it is a term that is often used, and it also refers to “durability”, “eco-compatible”, “renewable”, “green”, “eco-sustainable” etc. It revolves around the central theme of responsible and mindful actions to ensure a better, more enduring future for our planet.
- Greenhouse Effect: naturally, gasses within the atmosphere trap some of the heat of the sun and make an ideal temperature for life to thrive. However, emission gasses of cars, electric items, industrial engines etc magnify this natural process, causing global warming, and leading to problems like climate change.
- Non-Renewable Energy: This is energy that comes from things we can’t make more of, like oil and coal. Once we use them up, they’re gone. It’s the opposite of renewable energy, like sunlight and wind, which we can always count on.
- Greenwashing: When a company says it’s doing good things for the environment but is actually not doing much at all, and it is everything about marketing and communication. It’s like putting a “green” label on a product that isn’t really eco-friendly.
- Carbon Footprint: Your carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses you create by using energy, like driving a car or using electricity. Any energy-consumption activity produces carbon dioxide (when we breathe, we produce it as well), and that is why “carbon footprint”. It’s a way to measure how much you’re contributing to climate change. In this sense, the more you use air conditioning, move by car, charge your phone, watch tv etc , the more you are contributing to a heavier carbon footprint.
- Tech Waste: This is all the old, broken, or unwanted electronic gadgets and devices we throw away. It’s important to handle tech waste responsibly because it can be harmful to the environment, especially because of the rare earths they have in them.
- Rare Earths: they are a special group of minerals that cannot be found in large amounts on the planet. They are essential for many current technologies, like the radio, television, smartphones, computers and laptops, as well as electric vehicles (any). They are at the center of silent wars and controlling schemes of big powers, and they are part of very essential trades. It is crucial to recycle our technology and not bin it generically, as in this way we contribute to make such rare minerals recirculate.
- Biodiversity: Biodiversity means the variety of life on Earth. It’s like having many different ingredients in a recipe – having a lot of different plants, animals, and ecosystems makes the planet healthier and more interesting.
- Environmental Advocacy: This is when people or groups work to speak up for an environmental cause, and they group to put pressure, and ask for engagement, either of citizens or of government on a specific matter. In general for the environment and try to make sure the planet is treated well. They might push for laws to protect nature or raise awareness about important environmental issues.
- Green Transition: this term refers to the change at a bigger level, where everything, from the production, to the services, energy sourcing etc has to become more environmentally friendly. Such a transition also refers to the different norms of the governments in the matters, especially the European Union.
- Intergenerational Justice: after having used a toilet, it is important to keep it clean and hygienic, as we would like the people to find it in proper conditions, as we also expect to find it. Likewise, we would not like to have our grandchildren find the Earth in the future in worse conditions than we find it today. In this sense, it is crucial to make decisions and take care of the Earth today, so that they can enjoy it just as much as we have. It’s about being fair and responsible, ensuring that the world is a good place for future generations.
“Sustainability cards” (Activity 2)
How green are you?
Activities for reflection
- Would you be able to say how you are sustainable? Check out on Google a Carbon Footprint Platform to check upon your current style
4. Limiting the impact in European Union
What makes things less worrying, it is that you are not alone in these perceptions, but adopting a greener lifestyle is part of the vision of the European Union (EU). In recent years, one of the biggest and most ambitious plans of the EU is the European Green Deal, a gigantic roadmap where different goals about the environment and social issues come together, and make the European Union “carbon neutral” by 2050.
In other words, the approach is to make economic wealth not anymore dependent on energy consumption, as it is still happening nowadays. Major goals are:
- At least 55% less net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels
- 3 billion additional trees to be planted in the EU by 2030
Such a plan promotes clean energies, while promoting technology that is more energy-efficient. For example, you can heat your house without spending a fortune, just because building materials can become (and are already) more ‘intelligent’.
Secondly, the progressive suppression of plastics, and the adoption of organic materials or alternative polymeric materials deriving from vegetables are key to EU plans.
Thirdly, the support of more sustainable transportation, through the promotion of cycling (or electric bikes), electric vehicles, and public transport. This is still an issue, especially in remote areas, and other strategies could be adopted, such as shared transport (like carpooling), that could reduce the expenses for transport.
Another key point for a more sustainable lifestyle within the EU refers to the Farm to Fork strategy, with stricter rules and stronger support toward organic farming and greener technologies for the harvesting and transportation of food.
When it comes to technology, the European Union has introduced the “Right to Repair” law that completely changes the approach to technological goods. Basically, it obliges producers to develop solutions to make it easy and low cost to repair all those items which are of common use (such as vacuum cleaners, or soon, tablets and smartphones) when the legal guarantee has expired or when the good is not functional anymore as a result of wear and tear.
In this way, through universal cables, and many other technical details, consumers are more likely to repair instead of buying new products in case of malfunction. Certainly, this is great in terms of less economic impact on pensions!
Activities for reflection
- Check online the percentage of renewable energy consumption in your country. What do you think?
- Do you think it is possible to become carbon neutral? Why? Why not?
5. Unit in a nutshell
- Climate Change Awareness: Climate change, though often seemingly invisible, impacts our daily lives with phenomena like rising temperatures and extreme weather events, making it vital to understand. It can be caused by human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, and poses health risks, especially for older adults.
- Collective Action: Addressing climate change requires a collective effort involving governments, technology advancements, and individual actions. Being environmentally active doesn’t just mean protesting but involves daily choices that can significantly impact our world.
- Environmental Impact: Climate change leads to diverse and contrasting effects, such as temperature variations, floods, and threats to plant and animal species. These changes have long-term and generational implications, necessitating action.
- Sustainability: Sustainability, a frequently used term, embodies responsible and eco-friendly practices to ensure a better future for our planet, focusing on long-term durability, renewable resources, and minimal harm.
- European Green Deal: The European Union is committed to combating climate change through the European Green Deal, aiming to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050. This ambitious plan involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions, planting trees, promoting clean energy and technology, minimizing plastics, and supporting sustainable transportation, among other initiatives.
- United Nations. (n.d.). What is climate change? Retrieved October 20, 2023, from https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/what-is-climate-change
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). Climate Change and Health: Older Adults. Retrieved October 9, 2023, from https://www.epa.gov/climateimpacts/climate-change-and-health-older-adults
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. (n.d.). Impact of Climate Change on the Rights of Older Persons. Retrieved October 21, 2023, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/climate-change/impact-climate-change-rights-older-persons
- European Commission. (2019). European Green Deal – Agriculture and the Green Deal. Retrieved October 20, 2023, from https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/european-gree n-deal/agriculture-and-green-deal_en
- Sustainable Business Network. (n.d.). Glossary of Sustainability. Retrieved October 18, 2023, from https://sustainable.org.nz/learn/tools-resources/glossary-of-sustainability/