Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing society today, and if unchecked, will remain a tremendous challenge to our way of life. Record-breaking temperatures and increasingly destructive natural disasters are no longer simply a threat, but a reality worldwide. Much of society and science has reached consensus that humanity has severely contributed to global climate change. The pollutants caused by our current way of life can be directly linked to the change in climate that we are currently experiencing. Regardless of one’s political affiliation or geographic location, climate change affects each of us in one way or another.

Over the past century, the human population has grown exponentially. Along with this population boom came unimaginable strides in transportation, industry and technology. These advances have undeniably improved the lives of billions, allowing the humanity to accomplish feats never before dreamed of. It would be difficult to imagine a world without modern vehicles, large-scale production facilities, or computers. Indeed, it would be impossible and impractical for humankind to return to a lifestyle without modern conveniences. As crucial to our livelihoods as these developments have been, they have taken a tragic toll on our environment.

Although deforestation, toxic spills, and smog are highly visible and real effects of human-caused environmental degradation, these disasters are merely the tip of the global climate change iceberg. Human activities account for tens of billions of tons of pollutants released into the atmosphere each year. Many common practices such as driving or turning on the air conditioning and household items such as paint or aerosol sprays introduce alarming amounts of pollutants, known as greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere with each use.

In the late 1990’s many governments around the world came together in adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in an effort to quickly curb the effects of global warming. The participating nations agreed to a plan that would limit the amount of GHGs produced by each country and hopefully halt the effects of global warming. As a result of the Kyoto Protocol, governmental participation and cooperation in the fight against climate change has flourished. Many nations apply mandatory emission reduction schemes and several other countries have voluntary emission reduction programs. Due largely to these programs, a robust market for carbon offset trading has developed.

While some governments have taken a very active approach to fighting global warming, unfortunately, others have refused take leadership and responsibility. Presently, the United States is among the few nations without a regulated and mandatory trading scheme. Regardless of government initiatives, we have a responsibility as citizens to mitigate our environmental impact and take a more active role in global warming. Simple changes with big results can be made in our lives without greatly impacting our lifestyles. Shop locally, take public transportation, ride a bike or walk. Recycle, retrofit your home, conserve water – these small measures, implemented by all, can make a tremendous difference to our environmental footprint. What you cannot reduce in your lifestyle can be balanced by purchasing carbon offsets that provide investment in environmentally beneficial projects.

In addition to reducing our personal carbon footprints, it is important that we as consumers place pressure on corporations and our government to take responsibility for their environmental footprints. Without the consumer to hold big business and government accountable, there is no motivation for either group to help preserve our planet. In this way we can create a healthy, sustainable planet to enjoy today and for generations to come.

Climate change affects each and every one of us. Please do your part before it’s too late.