Earth Hour & Climate Change | WWF
 
	© Jeremiah Armstrong

Earth Hour 2016

Earth Hour

Earth Hour is the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment.

Now in its 10th year, WWF began Earth Hour as a single event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. The idea sparked people’s imaginations and became an international sensation. This year hundreds of millions of people, in 178 countries and territories and over 7,000 cities will show their support for the planet by participating in Earth Hour activities.

Earth Hour 2016 is our time to shine a light on climate action. 
 
	© Earth Hour Global
© Earth Hour Global
“Climate action today will decide what tomorrow looks like for years to come. Earth Hour empowers each individual to be a part of making climate change history, be it through a social event, interactive campaigns and even social networks,” said Sudhanshu Sarronwala, Chair, Board of Directors, Earth Hour Global. “Earth Hour is the world’s most enduring people’s movement focused on climate. The actions of millions throughout the year will inspire the solutions required to change climate change.” 

The event began as a symbolic statement in support of the planet. But now Earth Hour has grown beyond symbolism to include concrete results that are helping to provide a better future. Participants attend rallies, turn off lights, organize education events and clean-up events, raise money for environmental projects, sign petitions, plant trees and other projects that support the planet. 

As the opportunity for action on climate change peaks in 2016, the world’s largest grassroots movement will raise its voice to change climate change.

“Climate change knows no borders and neither does the crowd,” says Sarronwala. “WWF's climate movement is powered by people, has massive reach and is pursuing an urgent purpose in demanding climate action.”

Earth Hour is the world’s most enduring people’s movement focused on climate. The lights may go out for one hour, but the actions of millions throughout the year will inspire the solutions required to change climate change. Climate change knows no borders and neither does the crowd. WWF's climate movement is powered by people, has massive reach and is pursuing an urgent purpose in demanding climate action.

-- Sudhanshu Sarronwala, Chair, Board of Directors, Earth Hour Global

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© Tony Rakoto
Be a Climate Leader

For the first time, Madagascar is also celebrating on-line. WWF has profiled Malagasy people who are taking climate action into their own hands. These Madagascar Climate Leaders are shining a light for the rest of the country to follow. Their stories are available on the WWF Blog, Dans Ma Nature.

“The message this Earth Hour is that we can all be climate leaders,” says WWF Country Director, Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana. “Climate change is a massive, global issue, but the solutions can come from all of us. These Malagasy climate leaders are examples of that. They are men and women, old and young, from all over Madagascar. We can all make a difference and lead the way on climate action.”
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Two young sisters in Ambakivao peer outside as rising waters lap threaten to wash away their home.
© WWF Madagascar / Mario Ray

Climate Change

It is nearly impossible to overstate the threat of climate change. 

Climate change is happening faster than ever. 2014 was the warmest year globally since we started keeping track.  Since 1900, every decade has been warmer than the previous one. The climate system is complex, but the basic dynamics have not changed – greenhouse gases from many human activities cause global temperatures to increase.

Climate change is a defining issue of our age.

-- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

But What Is Climate Change?

The Earth's climate is changing, and people's activities are the main cause.

First we have to understand what is climate. Climate is the average weather conditions that happen in a certain area over many years.

Climate change refers to rapid changes in these weather patterns - changes that are happening faster than they would naturally occur. Changes that are being caused by human activities.

One of the most talked about trends is the Earth’s average temperature, which has been rising for many years. This is called global warming.

These higher temperatures are having an effect around the world. We are experiencing stronger storms, glaciers are melting all over the planet and the survival of species are being threatened due to habitat loss caused by climate change. That's because the Earth's air, water, and land systems are all connected to each other and to the climate. Changes in one area can lead to changes in another place. An example of this is that when air temperatures rise, the oceans absorb more heat from the atmosphere and become warmer. Warmer oceans, in turn, can cause stronger storms.

What are humans doing to change the climate like this?

Well, the biggest cause is the use of fossil fuels - mainly oil, gas and coal – which we burn for heating and cooling our homes, fueling cars and generating electricity. Other things that contribute to climate change include our agricultural practices - farming more and more methane-producing livestock - and deforestation, which includes clearing land for development, for farm land, for building supplies, for warmth and for cooking.

Evolution of Global Temperatures: 1880 - 2011

 27 seconds to understand global climate change since 1880.
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A section of the Monaco Glacier calving in Spitzbergen, Norway
© Steve Morello / WWF-Canon

Climate Change: What We Know

  • We are responsible. Human activity is the main cause of recent climate change.
  • Climate change will have major and unpredictable effects on the world's water systems. Including an increase in floods and droughts, causing in turn, an impact on food supply, displacement and conflict.
  • It is causing more extreme weather and bigger storms. Seasonal shifts, extreme weather conditions, change in precipitation patterns caused by climate change will impact farming and agriculture, a source of food and livelihood for more than half of the global population.
  • The planet is getting hotter. The world has warmed by 0.8°C since pre-industrial times. 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded.
  • And the oceans are rising. Rising sea levels threaten entire nations on low-lying islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and coastal communities in many other countries, including Madagascar.
  • Some of the world’s greatest treasures could be lost. At the current rate of degradation, the iconic Great Barrier Reef could be dead within a human lifetime.
  • There are many benefits to acting on climate change that go beyond just cutting emissions. Solutions such as clean renewable energy and more efficient energy use create new jobs, promote development, avoid air pollution and health impacts, and save places and species from the impacts of fossil fuel extraction.
  • We aren’t doing enough. The gap between what scientists tell us we need to do to keep climate change below 2°C and what we are doing is huge. The time for politicians, companies and investors to act is now.
Causes and Effects

As we industrialized, the world built energy systems that relied on dirty, pollution sources of power like coal, oil and natural gas – fuel s that needed to be burned to produce energy. One of the by-products of burning these fossil fuels is carbon dioxide, which traps heat in the atmosphere and has become one of the main reasons why climate change has been happening so quickly.

The planet has a natural system to keep itself in balance and we have been rapidly destroying another part of that system – trees – which trap and store carbon dioxide. Deforestation has led to more release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and lowered the planets ability to handle the carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

All of these extra gasses are heating up the planet and leading to changes around the globe. As a result of these changes some places may receive better weather, but for most of the planet climate change is having devastating effects. It is leading to all sorts of other changes around the world—on land, in the oceans, and in the atmosphere.

And these changes affect people, plants, and animals in many ways. We are experiencing more intense hurricanes and cyclones, more droughts, more floods, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, changing weather patterns, shifting periods of rainfall and loss of habitats that is threatening plant and animal species that cannot adjust fast enough.

Inceasingly, climate change is contributing to conflicts and political instabilities as droughts and floods exacerbate pressures, suffering and disputes over scarce resources.

We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change. And the last generation that can do something about it.

-- Barack Obama, President of the United States of America

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Lemurs may lose an average of 59.6 % of their current habitats due to climate change.
© WWF Madagascar / Viktor Nikkiforov

Climate Change: What It Means For Madagascar

  • Madagascar has been ranked as the country with the third highest “extreme climate risks”.
  • Madagascar has experienced rising temperature since 1950. It is projected this change will continue in the future with more intense cyclones, higher temperatures (increases of 1.1 to 2.6°C) and changes in rainfall patterns.
  • In the north, average rainfall is declining as temperatures rise. In the south, average rainfall is increasing as temperatures rise.
  • Rainfall periods are changing. One time of the year might now get more rain, while another time of year will have less. In general Madagascar is getting less annual rainfall, but the West is experiencing more intense rainfall.
  • Since 1994 the number of intense cyclones has been increasing. The number of strong cyclones, over 200 km/hour winds, has greatly increased and the average windspeed of cyclones has risen by 30 km/hour.
  • Temperatures are predicted to rise across the country, with the greatest warming in the south.
  • Precipitation changes are varying from one region to another. The dry season is getting longer in the High Plateaus and the east; while the west is getting more intense rainfall.
  • All of these climate events will add to impacts on Madagascar’s natural and human environments already caused by human activity.
  • In addition, a recent study that examined 57 lemur species found that 60% of them will experience considerable range reductions over the next 70 years entirely due to future climate change, which risks forcing some of them into extinction. 
  • WWF Madagascar is work with our partner communities on climate change adaptation strategies with the aim of reducing human and climate threats and helping species, ecosystems and human systems to better prepare for the future and projected changes. 
The Imperative to Act

The Earth’s climate has always changed: temperatures have risen and fallen over thousands of years. But it’s happening now at a far faster rate than ever before, which doesn’t give the world’s species (including ourselves) much time to react or adapt.

The good news is that if we accept humans are a major cause of climate change, we can choose to do something about it. But we have to do it soon.

There are many benefits to acting on climate change that go beyond just cutting emissions. Solutions such as clean renewable energy and more efficient energy use create new jobs, promote development, avoid air pollution and health impacts, and save places and species from the impacts of fossil fuel extraction. Protecting forests is good for the species that live there and for indigenous peoples whose communities depend on intact forests.

One of the most important things we can do it to commit to phasing out fossil fuels and switching to clean, renewable energy sources like wind, solar and water. 

 

Clean air and water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It is our moral obligation. We only get one planet.

-- Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor and WWF Global Ambassador

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Solar panels are installed on a water desalination plant in Tariboly, a small village in southwest Madagascar.
© WWF Madagascar / A.G. Klei

WWF’s Work on Climate Change

WWF works on low carbon development and climate policy, clean and smart energy, forests and climate, climate finance, and climate business engagement.

Our work to achieve a "climate-safe" future includes:
  • Advocating a new international climate agreement – one that is just and legally binding
  • Promoting energy efficiency – the most rapid and cost-effective way to reduce CO2 emissions
  • Promoting renewable energy sources – like wind, solar, and geothermal power
  • Preventing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation – the largest contributor to green house gas emissions after the burning of fossil fuels
  • Developing and promoting climate change adaptation strategies– to safeguard the most vulnerable people and the most exposed ecosystems and species.
We also work with businesses to help them set science-based targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Earth Hour in Madagascar Through the Years

© WWF Madagascar © WWF Madagascar / Tinha Rabarison © WWF Madagascar © WWF Madagascar © WWF Madagascar © WWF Madagascar / A.G. Klei © WWF Madagasar / A.G. Klei © WWF Madagascar © WWF Madagascar © WWF Madagascar / Martina Lippuner