Global Warming is Here

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originally published by

Peterborough Examiner

Global warming is here. Scientists now believe that the rate of global warming is accelerating higher and faster than predicted and will keep accelerating.

2023 was the hottest year on record globally, shattering previous records by a wide margin. Peterborough experienced the warmest February 2024 on record. Humanity is on a trajectory to experience the hottest 2024 on record according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Extreme temperature records have already been broken for March in Honduras where I’m currently staying. It’s so hot and humid here that water is steadily dripping off our roof and off our faces. There’s a thick layer of dense smog hovering over the island. The sea is hot. The reef and sea-life are dying. The UV rating is the highest it’s ever been here. We’re warned to stay indoors out of the sun.

Welcome to the future. It’s here now and we should all be very afraid because global warming is irreversible and the extremely hot, humid, unhealthy air that I’m breathing now in Honduras, will soon be in Peterborough this summer.

Global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels that create greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that build up in the atmosphere, warm the climate and take hundreds of years to dissipate. One of the main sources of GHG emissions is from gas-fueled transportation. Will this be a wake-up call for more people to reduce their vehicle usage? I doubt it.

Now that we know what causes it, will more people walk, bike or bus this spring when the weather is comfortable enough? I can only hope. But right now in Honduras, I don’t see it.

What I see instead from my stifling-hot balcony is gas-fueled tuk-tuks, ATVs, golf carts and motorcycles whipping down a very narrow dirt road in front of my apartment spewing up fumes that I’m inhaling inside my apartment. Sadly, these vehicles are increasing here because new tourists are bringing their old habits. The temperature is also increasing here. Yet no one seems to be making the connection.

Gasoline fumes are not only harmful to the environment, they are very harmful to our health.
A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (USC) titled Cars, Trucks, Buses and Air Pollution links pollutants from vehicle exhaust to adverse impacts on nearly every organ system in the body. The study points out that while this air pollution carries significant risks for human health and the environment, through zero-emissions technologies, we can significantly reduce emissions.

Gasoline emissions stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and keep accumulating so we are constantly breathing them in. No wonder a variety of diseases are on the rise.

The major pollutants from motor vehicles that are harmful to our health are Particulate Matter, Volatile Organic Compounds, Nitrogen Oxide, Carbon Monoxide and Sulfur Dioxide. These toxic ingredients pose a serious threat to human health as they can penetrate deep into the lungs. irritate the respiratory system, weaken the body’s defenses against respiratory infections, pneumonia and influenza, block oxygen from the brain, heart and other vital organs, are linked to different types of cancer and cause asthma and other respiratory ailments.

So for health reasons alone, we should try to reduce our vehicle usage and walk, bike or bus whenever possible.

Old habits die hard and this is one of the main reasons why we are driving more and walking/biking/bussing less. We are creatures of habit that are used to doing everything the same old way every day. If we see other people lining up at the Tim Horton’s drive-thru idling their vehicles, we will do it too. Monkey-see, monkey-do.

We need to become good role models for each other by creating new, good habits. An easy way to do this is to not line up at drive-thrus. We can easily park our car and walk into the restaurant and get our coffee quicker than lining up at the drive-thru. This is good role modeling. When people at the drive-thru see that you already have your coffee and they are still waiting for theirs, they may park and walk in too.

Affordability is not an issue to reducing emissions. Zero-emissions transportation can cost zero dollars. Walking is free; a used bicycle is $100; an electric bike is $900; and used zero-emissions Nissan Leafs are available online for $10,000.

If we all walk and bike more–especially on our beautiful sidewalks and bike paths in Peterborough— more people will start doing it too. Monkey see-monkey do.

Now that it’s spring, it’s time to change our old unhealthy habits to new healthy ones. Adopting an “Anything But Gas” mindset is as easy as ABG! It may be too late to stop global warming but it’s not too late to improve our health.

Tricia Clarkson is a local climate change columnist and co-chair of Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action.

This article first appeared in the Peterborough Examiner. It is reproduced here with permission of the author.