Earth Day is celebrated globally every year on April 22. It’s not too late to celebrate this year’s Earth Day theme, “Climate Action.”  One of Earth Day’s major campaigns is the “Fight climate change with diet change” challenge where individuals can inform themselves in regards to their “carbon footprint” at www.https://www.earthday.org/foodprints-calculators/.

According to nature.org, the average carbon footprint for a person in the U.S. is 16 tons, while the average amount globally is about 4 tons. In order for the Earth to not exceed the rise of 2 degrees Celsius globally, the average carbon footprint needs to drop under 2 tons by 2050.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 2019 was the second warmest year recorded, but the last decade has been by far the warmest.

“We crossed over into more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit warming territory in 2015 and we are unlikely to go back,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), “This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon: we know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

One of the major causes of climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases. Although greenhouse gases help the environment stay comfortable at an average of 58 degrees Fahrenheit, too many gasses—such as carbon dioxide emissions—cause more of the sun’s heat to get trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere. The rise in temperatures plays a crucial factor in the melting of ice sheets; the rising of ocean levels; and the contribution to increased precipitation, extreme heat waves, longer periods of droughts, and wildfires.

According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the annual average temperature is expected to rise an additional 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the temperatures don’t rise equally around the globe. Climate change increases at different rates everywhere. The warming of land happens faster than the warming of the oceans. Since 1969, the ocean has shown warming of more than 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to melt.

According to data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, Antarctica and Greenland have lost between 127 and 286 billion ice sheets per year from 1993 – 2016. However, Antarctica’s loss of ice sheets has tripled in the past 10 years.

Ocean levels have also risen, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The ocean’s surface acidity rose by 30 percent. This is due to carbon dioxide being emitted into the oceans and this, in turn, causes the decimation of coral reefs.

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has challenged world leaders to take action on greenhouse gas emissions with school strikes and through her social media. Thunberg said that one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases is the environmental impact of aviation. To avoid flying, Thunberg sailed from Europe to North America where she attended the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. Her speech there, in which she exclaimed “how dare you”, led to world-wide recognition and becoming the youngest “Time Magazine Person of the Year.”

In an interview during a New Scientist podcast, Thunberg said a collective decision was taken at an emergency remote meeting of the Fridays for Future movement to conduct virtual protests during the pandemic. Thunberg added “If one virus can wipe out the entire economy in a matter of weeks and shut down societies, then that is proof that our societies are not very resilient. It also shows that once we are in an emergency, we can act and we can change our behaviour quickly.”