What causes climate change?
The Greenhouse Effect: As the sun’s rays enter the atmosphere, they warm the earth’s surface. The heat is ultimately dissipated back into space, however, due to greenhouse gases, the consistency of the atmosphere is changing and this new combination of gases traps the sun’s heat within the earth’s atmosphere. Because the heat is trapped near the earth’s surface, temperatures have been rising at exponential rates, rippling catastrophe throughout the globe.
Where do these gases come from? Greenhouse gases including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons are created by human activities. For example, burning fossil fuels increases the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere.
Temperature Statistics and Trends
Two key climate change indicators:
- Global surface temperatures
- Arctic sea ice extent
Dependent on these two factors, 2016 was found to be the warmest year on modern temperature record (dated since 1880) by an average of 2.4 degrees difference from the late 19th century.
As of March 7, 2017, the Arctic Sea ice extent has reached a winter all-time low due to the melting of glaciers and icecaps. The ice extent in the Arctic and Antarctic has been measured by satellites since 1979 when they were first launched.
Effects of Climate Change
If you look up “climate change” in google and observe the pictures that constitute the internet’s definition of “climate change”, you will find images of smokey factories, digitally mastered trees with half of their branches bare, and lots of polar bears. But do you know the effects that climate change has on human populations?
Subsistence farmers have typically relied on past weather patterns in order to know when to plant certain crops throughout the year. By observing historical patterns, they are able to predict when the dry and wet seasons will fall, and plant their crops accordingly. However, climate change has created unpredictable droughts, floods, and tropical storms that ruin crop yields for farmers.
Additionally, higher temperatures are allowing for longer breeding seasons for insects and nurture molds that have been proven to ruin farmer’s crops. CRS is implementing programs to teach farmers how to manage these climate changes.
For example, in Guatemala, coffee leaf rust (a fungus) has been infecting farmer’s coffee plants, killing the plants and producing low crop yields. This past year, the coffee wiped out 20% of coffee plants in Central America, causing the loss of 337,000 jobs and losing $460 million of income for coffee-farming families.
Catholic Relief Services is working to educate farmers in Guatemala about diversity in crops and how they are able to depend on goods other than the risky coffee plant. Some of these newly-introduced trades include bee keeping for honey production, planting vegetable gardens, and raising tilapia and hens.
Additionally, CRS is helping coffee farmers use more effective practices when tending to their coffee farms such as using organic fertilizer, better pruning techniques (to get rid of infected leaves), and responsible application of fungicides.
CRS Tulane Efforts
CRS Tulane has hosted Equal Exchange coffee and chocolate sales this semester. By selling Equal Exchange goods, we are not only spreading awareness for equal exchange, but are also supporting the farmers from whom we buy the goods.
Equal Exchange? Fair Trade? What’s the difference?
In the past few years, the “fair trade” title has become skewed as “Fair Trade USA” has been signing on large organic food production companies to its label. The name change to “Equal Exchange” is purposed to bring back the original values of fairly traded goods and support small farmers across the globe.
“Fair Trade is for small farmers and small producers who are democratically organized. If you take the democracy out you have traditional aid or world bank development or what the TransFair USA and the European certifiers are now trying to call Fair Trade…If you want the fastest supply chain that produces the most tea or coffee or bananas at commercial terms you have entered into some socially responsible product world of which there are many examples. It just ain’t Fair Trade, and it won’t have the same positive benefits.”
-Rink Dinkinson, Equal Exchange Co-Founder and Co-Director
Take the time to browse this page full of information about free trade so that you are able to have fruitful discussions with your peers about what “free trade” really means and how we are able to participate in this ethical movement as college students: https://equalexchange.coop/fair-trade