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Global warming & climate change: What is the difference and how can we reduce our impact?

Climate change and global warming are two phrases we hear constantly, be it in the media, in politics or in our social circles. The phases are used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different things, with global warming being just one aspect of climate change.

Climate change refers to the gradual changes that are happening to our planet over time, such as a rise in temperature, rainfall levels, wind patterns, shrinking glaciers and more. Sadly, climate change is primarily caused by us humans. The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gas emissions and heat-trapping gasses into the air.

Global warming, on the other hand, refers to the long-term increase of our planet’s overall temperature. WWF Australia says that global warming places stress on our ecosystems through the increasing temperatures, water shortages, increased risk of fire and drought and more.

A 2018 report by the UN stated that thousands of scientists and government officials agree that limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C would help to avoid the worst climate impacts and maintain a livable climate, however based on current national climate plans, global warming is projected to reach 2.7°C by the end of the century.

So what can we do as individuals to reduce global warming? It seems like an overwhelming and unachievable goal, but if we all do our bit then the effects will be felt globally.

4 Easy Ways To Reduce Your Personal Impact on Climate Change and Global Warming

Global warming & climate change - people with sigh "there is no planer B"
  1. Drive less. Taking public transportation, riding a bike or walking to your destination really is an easy and affordable way to reduce your personal impact on climate change. Most major cities around the world have cohesive public transport systems that connect communities near and far, and bike paths and walking trails are becoming more accessible. 
  1. Eat less meat and dairy. We’re not saying to cut it entirely if you feel you can’t make that change right now, but working towards eating less meat and dairy can have major benefits on your health and the environment. Source sustainable local suppliers, and try to reduce the number of times a week you consume meat and dairy. These days, there are plenty of substitutes for dairy products too, so making the switch has never been easier.
  1. Reduce your energy use at home. Simple steps like adding extra layers of clothing and blankets during the colder months means you can turn the heating down a few degrees, turning off and unplugging appliances and lights overnight or when you leave the house, and switching over to LED lights can all help to reduce your carbon footprint. Installing solar panels, finding utility companies that generate power from wind or solar and making sure your home is well insulated are some bigger steps you can take that will all be beneficial as well.
  1. Reduce your water waste. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, doing bigger loads of washing less often (and in cold water), taking shorter showers, even placing a bucket in the shower to catch the water downfall and using it to water the garden, it’s all going to help and they are changes you can make today.

By making conscious decisions every day about our personal impact on the environment, we can collectively help to reduce the damage that global warming and climate change are causing. Share this information with your family, friends and co-workers and encourage them to implement changes with you.