Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. (August 6, 2015). Earth's Greenhouse Effect [Online]. Available:'s_greenhouse_effect_(US_EPA,_2012).png

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. (August 6, 2015). Earth's Greenhouse Effect [Online]. Available:'s_greenhouse_effect_(US_EPA,_2012).png

What Human Activities Contribute to Climate Change?

No discussion about climate change would be complete without discussing the very real impact of human activities on our changing climate. The earth is essentially a greenhouse. During the process of the sun heating the earth, the earth absorbs the infrared and thermal radiation while greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapour, are produced. This process is called the greenhouse effect. This is a natural occurrence, and it is what makes the earth inhabitable. Without it, the earth would maintain an average temperature of -18c, making it unlivable.

Humans contribute to greenhouse gases on a massive scale through the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Other causes include land clearing for agriculture, production of goods we buy and consume, among others. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is a group of 1,300 independent experts from various countries around the world, “there's a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.”1

Given the impacts we have already seen (and discussed in previous posts), you might think this is a problem we can’t fix, but in fact there are ways for us to slow down what is happening and prevent some of the more catastrophic outcomes we are currently headed toward. Making smart choices about what you consume, and how you use, reuse, and recycle things is a great first step. You can also look at things like driving a hybrid or electric vehicle, taking public transit, reducing your use of water by taking shorter showers, and turning the tap off while you brush your teeth, even doing a meatless Monday to reduce your consumption of farmed meat, or going out on the land to engage in sustainable harvest.

Unfortunately, the biggest producers of greenhouse gases are not individuals, but corporations and governments. It is important to support national and local work that is ongoing to combat climate change, including engaging in environmental processes happening in your area, and supporting eco-responsible companies, which encourages other companies to reduce their impact to earn your support and spending.

For some more in-depth reads on the human cause of climate change, as well as on how you can reduce your carbon footprint, see the links below. Our next instalment in our series will be the last and is an exploration of Traditional Knowledge and climate change, and the incredible work that Indigenous leaders, and groups are doing to fight some of the consequences of it.