Here at GITNB HQ, we spend our days trying to raise awareness about the climate crisis and the actions we can all take to reverse global warming. And through all of the interactions, there are a few things that crop up time and again that we wish more people understood about climate change.
The problem with the climate crisis is that individual understanding of the issues sits on a spectrum ranging from climate denialism to David Attenborough-esque levels of knowledge. In a world where conspiracy theories reign supreme, global leaders choose not to believe in (or ignore) science and fake news is rife, it’s hard to comprehend the reality and urgency of the climate crisis. But understand it we must. And a recent question posed by Dr Elizabeth Sawin on Twitter got us thinking: What’s one thing you wished more people understood about climate change? Excellent question. Here are the 10 things that made our list. What’s on yours?
1. That it’s real
We thought we were past this too. But when the leader of the Western world states he doesn’t *believe* in climate change and refuses to acknowledge science (and y’know actual facts), it becomes apparent that climate denialism is still a very real thing. Yet so far in 2020, we’ve experienced apocalyptic fires in the Amazon, California, Australia, and Siberia, the hottest Arctic and Antarctic temperatures on record, locust plagues across sub-Saharan Africa, a global pandemic, and biblical flooding across India, Pakistan, and Sudan. What more evidence is required?
2. That it’s an immediate problem that will affect everyone
For too long, we’ve been talking about climate change as if it’s some nebulous idea that’s only going to affect those living in the future. Ergo, #NotMyProblem. And while it may be true the worst is yet to come (if we don’t take action now), the reality is climate change is already here (see point 1). And it’s not something that anyone can afford to ignore. While some parts of the world face a more immediate threat than others (think South Pacific islands like Tuvalu that are slowly sinking due to rising sea levels), there is no escaping it. The climate crisis will impact every person on the planet at some point soon if it hasn’t already. And you thought 2020 was rough…
3. When we talk about 2°C warming, we’re referencing a global average
Under the Paris Agreements, a landmark environmental accord, almost every nation agreed to address the negative impact of climate change. It aims to do this primarily by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. But when we talk about 2°C, it’s important to remember that relates to a global average. There are going to be places in the world that experience significantly greater levels of warming. And that means temperatures in some countries will be 3, 4, or even 5°C warmer (or perhaps more? Yikes). Say hello to lethally hot temperatures in the Middle East and South Asia, the disappearance of coastal cities and coral reefs, an ice-free Arctic, and millions of climate refugees.
4. That the planet doesn’t actually need humans
As much as our fragile egos would like to believe otherwise, the planet does not actually need us. It was here before we were, and it will be around long after we’re gone. Reinventing the economy, our structures, and systems to be sustainable is purely so us humans can stick around for a bit longer. In effect, the climate crisis is the biggest act of self-sabotage going.
5. But that humans and ecological systems are truly interconnected
The Earth’s ecosystem has evolved over millions of years, but it’s only in recent decades that humans have started tinkering with its delicate balance. And increasingly, we view ourselves as separate and superior to the natural world. But this thinking only leads to one end: destruction. And whether we like it or not, humans can’t outwit Mother Nature (as extreme weather events have proven) and our existence on this planet is equally as fragile as any other species. Indigenous communities – the original environmentalists – have long understood this delicate balance and are able to live in harmony with the environment. We could learn a lot from listening to this ancient wisdom.
6. That combating climate change is actually a massive opportunity
Did you ever stop to think that the cost of fixing the problem is so much lower than the price of doing nothing? On the one hand, for example, we can invest in renewable energy, green transport, sustainable food and agriculture, ethical capital, circular economies, and carbon capture and offsetting (not to mention myriad other green initiatives). And by investing now, this authoritative research suggests we could save a whopping $26 trillion by 2030. On the other hand, there’s mass extinction. We’re still confused why this isn’t a no-brainer.
7. That a sustainable future is one of abundance
When we talk about sustainability, we’re often presented with two competing visions: scarcity vs abundance. Thanks to climate deniers, politicians, and industrial groups looking to protect selfish agendas, we’ve been led to believe that saving our planet means sacrifice and privation. Or that protecting our environment will damage the economy. But this isn’t actually the case. And we need to reframe the terminology we use when talking about the environment, so it inspires and motivates people to take action.
On a micro-individual level taking #LittleGreenSteps and making more conscious decisions doesn’t need to compromise your lifestyle. And on a macro-systemic level sustainability equals abundance. (In fact, it’s when something is scarce that makes it unsustainable. Case in point: fossil fuels.) The Stanford Social Innovation Review states that sustainability and abundance “simultaneously expands economic opportunity, strengthens community, and restores the planet, it provides an important mechanism to accomplish the Paris climate goals.” It’s time to change the way we talk about the future.
9. We have all the solutions
Reversing global warming might seem like an impossible task; an existential crisis so vast that it’s insurmountable. But the truth is, we actually have all of the solutions, the science, and the technology to implement change now. We even made a video about it. And the brilliant research from the team at Project Drawdown shared 76 solutions to reverse global warming. It seems what it really all comes down to is a matter of will.
10. And finally, a thought from Dr Elizabeth Sawin herself: “In remaking the world to address climate change, we could fix so many of our other seemingly intractable problems. From health crises to structural racism.”
You see, it’s all connected. We’re all connected. When it comes to health, through destroying our environment and moving ever further into the habitats of wild animals, we’ve unintentionally bridged a gap with devastating consequences. For it’s that proximity which makes it easier for diseases to spread and mutate between species (hello COVID-19, SARS, Ebola, we could go on… you get the gist). And if you want to learn more about why we need to talk about racism when we talk about environmentalism, watch our video on the subject. The bottom line is, addressing climate change would have a far-reaching impact beyond reversing global warming.