We’re heating the planet.
It’s a fact.
We can change this.
There’s no one on this planet for whom this week’s UN report on climate change is good news. We are all in this together. And only together can we stop this trend.
The extensive report states that in twelve short years, the earth will reach a critical temperature point at which extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages will affect hundreds of millions of people. It will reach that point without immediate and far-reaching changes throughout all aspects of society.
Today, as we read this stark warning, we still have a choice. Today, we can choose to ignore these words — from disbelief or disinterest or self-interest, or from hopelessness or despair, or from preoccupation with the pressing issues we all have in our daily lives. Or today, we can choose to take notice. We can find out what actions we can take now to slow this trend. But in the near future, without action, our options may be gone.
Climate change warnings have been in the background of our minds for decades. Is this different? Yes. While this report contains facts and numbers, there’s one number that shouts out to us above all the others. Twelve. In twelve years all our lives may be radically different due to climate change. Most of us have at least a vague picture of what we think our lives might be like in twelve years. But very few of us take into account the predictions laid out in this report. We aren’t planning for it, even though we are beginning to actually feel the temperature increase now, as each year charts new territory as the hottest in history. We aren’t planning, even though we see in some places that people are experiencing firsthand the effects of wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and air pollution so bad that a mask is needed to go outside.
There are human faces behind the numbers we read in the UN report. We can see them because climate change is happening now to millions of people. And it’s causing war; it’s causing famine; it’s creating climate refugees. These refugees are not people who may appear in the future. They are here now. Since 2008, an average of 24 million people have been displaced by catastrophic weather disasters each year. And if the temperature keeps rising unchecked, ‘they’ becomes ‘we’.
We find ourselves today at this dangerous point through past inaction. The reasons for our arrival here are myriad: Loss of a sense of the sacred character of nature, greed, rampant materialism. But right now we don’t have time for blame. We don’t have time for anything that will divide us. We can still avoid some of the worst-case-scenarios of global warming, but the easiest options are no longer on the table. Our action or inaction now will shape the future of our planet.
As individuals we have great power through our daily choices. The path forward is not just about remote science; it is personal, and we can all significantly contribute to the massive change that is needed. As individuals we may not have control over land use, for example, but we do have control over what we eat and that is what determines land use. And we can choose the way we get around in cities. If there are no good public transport options, we can elect politicians who will provide them. We can buy from companies making low carbon products. When living sustainably becomes the norm, we will have taken a major step in getting off this catastrophic course.
It’s a time to dig deep for hope and to make connections with others. We don’t have to share the same motivations to want the same outcomes. Let’s focus on learning from and teaching each other, on strengthening our communities, on reflecting on what we can do right now. Let’s live in justice and respect for each other and for the planet.
This is our only home. Every woman, man, and child shares it.
We’ve got work to do.