Heavy rainfalls, thunderstorms, hail, and mudslides – they have caused devastation throughout Germany in the last weeks. Some people lost everything they had and some even lost their lives. After 3 months with Wilhelm in New Zealand, I came back with Lima to Germany about two weeks ago. Neighbouring villages have been flooded and I cannot recall this heavy rains in my lifetime. Luckily, we are both safe and sound. But it has made me think – although no one can say for sure that these storms are due to climate change… what if? What if the destruction and devastation are caused by our own actions? We can ask ourselves, are these catastrophic events just randomly occurring, or can we see a pattern?
Fact is, that the number of heavy rains has increased drastically in Germany the last decades. Below you can see a graph of the change in heavy rainstorms from 1996 till 2012. Every blue point represents one meteorological station, which measured at least 15 mm of rain per hour in a years time. Regarding that the last weeks of storms are the most extreme I can remember, I don’t want to imagine how the map of 2016 already looks like by now.
Lima and I just came back from the other side of the world, New Zealand. Where we lived, in a village close to Christchurch, it was barely raining for almost three months. It was so dry that we almost felt like we lived in a desert. The sheep farms were maintained by large irrigation systems which this year almost depleted the ground water. Although the sheep farms were alright – the rest of the landscape wore signs of the noteless catastrophe. The vegetation was dead, and the riverbeds were all run dry but.
The contrast of these two weather extremes has made me wonder. What am I doing to stop climate change? How do I contribute? Even though I studied environmental science my carbon footprint is much bigger than most of my friends. Wilhelm and I both like to travel, we are concerned about the environment as well as the conservation of endangered species. However, at the same time avian means of transport also has a very negative environmental impact. But how bad is flying for climate change?
So, let’s calculate this. By flying from New Zealand to Germany we emitted around 6150 kg CO2 per person (based on the data from: http://eingutertag.org/100_points.html), multiplied by two to include the return flight. An average person on earth emits 6.8 kg CO2 per day. This means that we consumed 1808 days, or five years, of CO2 emissions just by flying to New Zealand. I already knew I was a sinner – but these figures shocked me!
Both Wilhelm and I should be more aware of our personal carbon footprints and our negative impact isn’t something we can neglect. We had some discussions about flying to New Zealand and the negative impact it has with friends. One of our friends had been doing carbon footprint compensation, meaning that she had paid/donated money to offset her emissions. Donations fund climate protection projects for solutions to fight climate change. Of course, we should do that! If we have the money to pay for a flight to New Zealand, we also have the money to offset our emissions. And if not, maybe it is a good birthday present. We should all try to contribute and if we can´t avoid or reduce the emission, offsetting is a good option.
Although the best would still be to not fly at all – donating money to decrease our own carbon footprint is the least we can do. If you have the money to pay for a flight to New Zealand, you also have the money to offset their emissions.
If you too feel like donating money for your emissions, or if you know a friend who has been flying and want to give a good birthday present, check out this webpage: https://www.atmosfair.de/en.
We should all try to contribute and if we can´t avoid or reduce the emission, offsetting is a good option!