Earth Day

What is Earth Day?

First celebrated on April 22nd, 1970, Earth Day is an annual event held on April 22nd to demonstrate support for environmental protection. There are events held globally, and we, as the Montpelier Parks Department, hope to inspire you to take on better stewardship of our Central Vermont home.

The official theme for Earth Day 2023 is Invest In Our Planet, and we will showcase some of the ways you can become more invested in our environment. Click the tabs below to learn more!

  1. What is Climate Change?

"Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped round the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.

Examples of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. These come from using gasoline for driving a car or coal for heating a building, for example. Clearing land and forests can also release carbon dioxide. Landfills for garbage are a major source of methane emissions. Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use are among the main emitters."

Definition from the United Nations Climate Action:

  1. What causes Climate Change?

There are numerous causes of climate change both big and small. Here are some of the primary factors that go into causing climate change worldwide:

"Generating power

Generating electricity and heat by burning fossil fuels causes a large chunk of global emissions. Most electricity is still generated by burning coal, oil, or gas, which produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – powerful greenhouse gases that blanket the Earth and trap the sun’s heat. Globally, a bit more than quarter of electricity comes from wind, solar and other renewable sources which, as opposed to fossil fuels, emit little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air.

Manufacturing goods

Manufacturing and industry produce emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels to produce energy for making things like cement, iron, steel, electronics, plastics, clothes, and other goods. Mining and other industrial processes also release gases, as does the construction industry. Machines used in the manufacturing process often run on coal, oil, or gas; and some materials, like plastics, are made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. The manufacturing industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Cutting down forests

Cutting down forests to create farms or pastures, or for other reasons, causes emissions, since trees, when they are cut, release the carbon they have been storing. Each year approximately 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed. Since forests absorb carbon dioxide, destroying them also limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere. Deforestation, together with agriculture and other land use changes, is responsible for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Using transportation

Most cars, trucks, ships, and planes run on fossil fuels. That makes transportation a major contributor of greenhouse gases, especially carbon-dioxide emissions. Road vehicles account for the largest part, due to the combustion of petroleum-based products, like gasoline, in internal combustion engines. But emissions from ships and planes continue to grow. Transport accounts for nearly one quarter of global energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. And trends point to a significant increase in energy use for transport over the coming years.

Producing food

Producing foodcauses emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases invarious ways, including through deforestation and clearing of land foragriculture and grazing, digestion by cows and sheep, the production and use offertilizers and manure for growing crops, and the use of energy to run farmequipment or fishing boats, usually with fossil fuels. All this makes foodproduction a major contributor to climate change. And greenhouse gas emissionsalso come from packaging and distributing food.

Powering buildings

Globally,residential and commercial buildings consume over half of all electricity. Asthey continue to draw on coal, oil, and natural gas for heating and cooling,they emit significant quantities of greenhouse gas emissions. Growing energydemand for heating and cooling, with rising air-conditioner ownership, as wellas increased electricity consumption for lighting, appliances, and connecteddevices, has contributed to a rise in energy-related carbon-dioxide emissionsfrom buildings in recent years.

Consuming too much

Your home anduse of power, how you move around, what you eat and how much you throw away allcontribute to greenhouse gas emissions. So does the consumption of goods suchas clothing, electronics, and plastics. A large chunk of global greenhouse gasemissions are linked to private households. Our lifestyles have a profoundimpact on our planet. The wealthiest bear the greatest responsibility: therichest 1 per cent of the global population combined account for moregreenhouse gas emissions than the poorest 50 per cent."

Quoted from the United Nations Climate Action:

  1. How does Climate Change effect the planet?

Now we know why climate change occurs across the globe. So, what will happen if we don't take action?

"Hotter temperatures

As greenhouse gas concentrations rise, so does the global surface temperature. The last decade, 2011-2020, is the warmest on record. Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one. Nearly all land areas are seeing more hot days and heat waves. Higher temperatures increase heat-related illnesses and make working outdoors more difficult. Wildfires start more easily and spread more rapidly when conditions are hotter. Temperatures in the Arctic have warmed at least twice as fast as the global average.

More severe storms

Destructivestorms have become more intense and more frequent in many regions. Astemperatures rise, more moisture evaporates, which exacerbates extreme rainfalland flooding, causing more destructive storms. The frequency and extent oftropical storms is also affected by the warming ocean. Cyclones, hurricanes,and typhoons feed on warm waters at the ocean surface. Such storms oftendestroy homes and communities, causing deaths and huge economic losses.

Increased drought

Climate changeis changing water availability, making it scarcer in more regions. Globalwarming exacerbates water shortages in already water-stressed regions and isleading to an increased risk of agricultural droughts affecting crops, andecological droughts increasing the vulnerability of ecosystems. Droughts canalso stir destructive sand and dust storms that can move billions of tons ofsand across continents. Deserts are expanding, reducing land for growing food.Many people now face the threat of not having enough water on a regular basis.

A warming, rising ocean

The ocean soaksup most of the heat from global warming. The rate at which the ocean is warmingstrongly increased over the past two decades, across all depths of the ocean.As the ocean warms, its volume increases since water expands as it gets warmer.Melting ice sheets also cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal andisland communities. In addition, the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, keeping itfrom the atmosphere. But more carbon dioxide makes the ocean more acidic, whichendangers marine life and coral reefs.

Loss of species

Climate changeposes risks to the survival of species on land and in the ocean. These risksincrease as temperatures climb. Exacerbated by climate change, the world islosing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recordedhuman history. One million species are at risk of becoming extinct within thenext few decades. Forest fires, extreme weather, and invasive pests anddiseases are among many threats related to climate change. Some species will beable to relocate and survive, but others will not.

Not enough food

Changes in theclimate and increases in extreme weather events are among the reasons behind aglobal rise in hunger and poor nutrition. Fisheries, crops, and livestock maybe destroyed or become less productive. With the ocean becoming more acidic,marine resources that feed billions of people are at risk. Changes in snow andice cover in many Arctic regions have disrupted food supplies from herding,hunting, and fishing. Heat stress can diminish water and grasslands forgrazing, causing declining crop yields and affecting livestock.

More health risks

Climate changeis the single biggest health threat facing humanity. Climate impacts arealready harming health, through air pollution, disease, extreme weather events,forced displacement, pressures on mental health, and increased hunger and poornutrition in places where people cannot grow or find sufficient food. Everyyear, environmental factors take the lives of around 13 million people.Changing weather patterns are expanding diseases, and extreme weather eventsincrease deaths and make it difficult for health care systems to keep up.

Poverty and displacement

Climate changeincreases the factors that put and keep people in poverty. Floods may sweepaway urban slums, destroying homes and livelihoods. Heat can make it difficultto work in outdoor jobs. Water scarcity may affect crops. Over the past decade(2010–2019), weather-related events displaced an estimated 23.1 million peopleon average each year, leaving many more vulnerable to poverty. Most refugeescome from countries that are most vulnerable and least ready to adapt to theimpacts of climate change."

Quoted from the United Nations Climate Action: