“the greatest danger to our future is apathy.”
– Jane Goodall, JGI
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(Information in countdown provided by The Climate Clock)
This is not a countdown to when climate change will begin – it is already here – it is when we begin to see the terrifying effects in our own home. 1.5 degrees of warming may not seem like a lot, and maybe that is why it is easy to turn a blind eye to the subject, but we are already experiencing devastating ramifications around the globe. From agricultural droughts caused by literal droughts, to ecological bankruptcies, to fast-burning fires ripping through large portions of continents, to severe heatwaves like Pakistan experienced in 2015, causing close to 2000 deaths in a very brief period solely from heat stroke and dehydration. We are watching millions become displaced by rising sea levels as our precious ice forms – ice forms that are home to many of our favorite animals – melt, never to return. The worst part is that many of those already experiencing the harshest effects are those who are causing the least amount of warming.
The ticking bomb above is a depiction of time remaining until our average world temperatures reach +1.5°C of warming. This degree of warming is a long-term temperature goal (set by the UNFCCC when creating The Paris Climate Agreement) to hold global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The countdown estimate is based on the most recent 5-year trend of global annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions and calculating the time until we emit the remaining carbon budget – the total allowable emissions before we reach 1.5°C. Total carbon emissions from all human activities was 37.1 billion tons in 2018, and are projected to cap off at over 43 billion tons for 2019.
We are living in the middle of an inconvenient truth. I cannot emphasize the reality of that statement, and I don’t think anyone can until it hits us in the face. A more immediate and palatable truth: if every country in the world met its current climate goals – and recall that the United States (the country with the second highest level of CO2 emissions behind China) formally withdrew from The Paris Climate Agreement last year – we would still reach our “tipping” point in just 12 years. A tipping point in the climate system is defined as a threshold that, when exceeded, lead to large changes in the state of the system; more specifically, we would see irreversible changes in the climate system, which would impact how we are able to exist within that system . This baseline increase in temperature is currently considered Earth’s tipping point and will bring about irreversible environmental consequences. The worst part: temperatures will continue to climb and will eventually reach catastrophic levels to create an unrecognizable planet, and our time will ultimately be limited — likely in the younger generations’ lifetime if we continue to practice “business as usual” policies.
We must first acknowledge the crisis in front of us. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming would continue to occur for several more decades, if not centuries. Knowing this, also know that we still have time to significantly slow that change. We are watching local policy makers at all levels implement policy to curb warming, even as national policy makers are not, and we are watching as major developments in clean energy and manufacturing unfold before our eyes. Perhaps most important, we must recognize the equally vital, yet simple, contributions that can be made in our own home. Check out some easy changes here, and subscribe for news and analysis at the bottom of this page.
“A state of half-ignorance and half-indifference is a much more pervasive climate sickness than true denial or true fatalism.”
– David Wallace-Wells, Climate Journalist
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