It’s easy to see news headlines and assume the world is black and white. Events seem to be either good or bad, positive, or negative, uplifting or devastating. There is no distinct in-between. But life is never that clear. It takes further digging to discern the good from the bad. Climate change is a topic that stirs up many different emotions ranging from anger to helplessness to indifference. No matter how you see the issue, it is necessary to understand how multifaceted this concept truly is.
The Montreal Protocol
In Jan. 2023, the UN published its quadrennial report on the Montreal Protocol, a procedure originally adopted in 1987 to ban almost one hundred man-made chemicals that were classified as “ozone depleting substances.” The protocol was a rare example of a treaty that achieved universal ratification. According to the UN’s most recent report, the ozone layer, a vital layer of the atmosphere that protects humans and the environment from harmful levels of UV rays, has shown significant signs of improvement over the past few decades. Experts believe that if the improvement stays on its current track, the ozone layer could be back to its 1980-level quality by 2040. While the holes over Antarctica and the Arctic will take longer to heal, these goals could be achieved by 2066 and 2045 respectively. Of course, this trajectory assumes that the efforts toward aiding the climate crisis continue. Slowly but surely, the ozone layer is healing.
Ice levels in Antarctica reach a new low
On the other hand, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that Antarctica’s ice levels fell to an all-time low on Feb. 13, 2023. The “sea ice extent” fell to 1.91 million square kilometers (737,000 square miles). This was the second consecutive year that the Antarctic extent dropped below 2 million square kilometers. Additionally, further declines are expected in the coming weeks and months. Leaders are once again turning their eyes towards safeguarding biodiversity. To address the rapid ice-melt, the UN resumed discussion of a new ocean conservation treaty after efforts were halted last year due to financial disputes. This update on Antarctic ice levels displays the complexity of the climate crisis.
Actions toward change
Nations around the world are looking for ways to decrease their CO2 emissions and use energy effectively. The World Economic forum reports that China’s solar power capabilities are expected to reach an all time high in 2023. Since China is home to sixteen of the twenty global regions that are most vulnerable to the climate crisis, leaders are looking for ways to decrease their greenhouse gas production. Additionally, according to Euro 7 standards, EU lawmakers have approved a law to “effectively ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the European Union” starting in 2035. The goal of this action is to expedite the switch to electric cars, which do not produce the harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to the climate crisis.
Sustainability at Hope College
Although this topic seems difficult to handle, even the smallest acts can make a difference. At Hope College, there are a few groups on campus that work toward the protection of our planet. One such group is Green Hope. The Anchor reached out to Molly Prom (’24), Green Hope’s co-president and an intern for Hope Advocates for Sustainability.
According to Prom, “Green Hope is an environmental student organization that any student at Hope can join. Its purpose is to create a community of students passionate about environmental issues and to organize events that align with the passions of current leaders and members.”
For students on Hope’s campus who are passionate about sustainability, Green Hope is an organization that provides students opportunities to put their passion into practice. Prom wants students to know that “Sustainable living doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can actually save you money as well as saving the planet.”
Prom gave examples of simple sustainability: eating less meat and animal products, only doing laundry when you have a full load, thrifting clothes and taking shorter showers. If you want to get involved in Green Hope, you can email them at email@example.com.
There is nothing black and white about the issues facing our world today. Where one area improves, another struggles. Even with the ozone layer healing, improvement moves like a tortoise rather than a hare. However, there is hope, as leaders around the world continue to create policies geared toward restoring the health of our planet.
The above image shows the decrease in ice levels in Antarctica. (Photo credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center)
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