Implications of extreme temperatures: what can we do?

by Gabriela Popescu

„When I was a child, he said, in the 70s we were playing a game in Focsani, the city of leaves: there were poplars all along the streets.  So in the autumn we were walking throughout the city stepping only on leaves. And if someone arrived in a place where there wasn`t any tree and thus no leaves, he had the right to draw out from his pocket so many leaves that he would keep walking on them, till he would have arrived to another place where leaves would have fallen from poplars. Everyone had the right to pick at the beginning of this game, one hundred leaves.” Nowadays, playing this game would raise the problem of the attention we pay to the environment and thus to our life.

… Writing about climate change, I will approach a complex phenomenon (droughts, floods, melting glaciers, sea level rising, etc.) which has effects on many levels and on different types of resources. Taking into account that I`m living in a flat region, I will argue my position in terms of temperature rise and its effects, and the potential impact that it could have.

Currently, as shown in the study „Turn down the heat: Why a 4ºC warmer world must be avoided” (available here), there is an increase of temperature of 0, 8ºC. This is caused by the emission level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to negative consequences both vertically and horizontally.

First of all, vertically, the community is affected if we take into account the implications that the increased temperature causes at the level of:

  • the air: the temperature rises, the heat waves increase in intensity, duration and frequency;
  • the soil: droughts affect crops, which determines economic effects (decreased market demand, increased prices of cereals/vegetables/fruits). As agriculture is the main water consumer sector, the water scarcity would put at risk the capacity of many societies to feed their growing populations;
  • the subsoil: impaired groundwater.

And this phenomenon is expanding. Therefore, consequences will accentuate in the 3 fields: environmental (extreme phenomenons will get head, pressure on the ecosystem, which has negative implications in agriculture, forestry, tourism, and electricity), social (human health is at risk because of the infectious diseases, the degree of mortality increases, and the birth rate decreases) and economy (GDP fluctuation).

In the future, the problems will amplify if we do not act individually and collectively, at the local, national and global level as soon as possible. From my point of view, life will be subject to important changes as the pollution brings many diseases and germs.

In short time we shall act:

  • locally: development of an irrigation system in order that agriculture (crops) resent less the effects of climate change and thus the negative consequences on people decrease (to not increase poverty rates and food prices);
  • nationally: raising awareness on the negative effects of neglecting the environment both in the atmosphere and the ecosystem, as well as at the social and economic levels. Individuals should be encouraged to use environmentally friendly technologies (public transportation, to plug off electrical devices when they`re not used/needed anymore, etc.).
  • globally: new commitments involving all countries, binding them with common but differentiated responsibilities by the categories of emission emitters; decrease of the fossil fuels consumption (especially oil and gas); increase the share of renewable energy in the total consumption energy; improving energy efficiency in buildings; improving access to financement by combining different tools available to enable developing countries to acquire the cleanest electricity production plants.

Heat waves and heat extremes are projected to increase as a consequence of climate change. I`m sure that acting together, at the community level, we could start mitigating the climate change phenomenon if we select household waste, use as much as possible natural light, use solar panels and common transportation. This `if` is extremely important: general public can act, more or less, and maybe balance the climate system.

It is imperative for Romania to take adequate measures to diminish the impact of climate changes at least on its territory and to protect as much as possible its population from the negative effects of climate change. In this view, in July 2013 it was adopted the 2013-2020 Romanian National Strategy on Climate Change, which addresses both components: mitigation and adaptation to climate change (available here).

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Implications of extreme temperatures: what can we do?

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