From the time I'm writing this, we have less than ten years to buckle down and confront climate change. Before I turn 30, the fate of the world will be sealed.
There are several different deadlines that are being passed around, from seven to twelve years. But the ones that artists Andrew Boyd and Gan Golan picked is the deadline to reduce our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and maintain only 1.5℃ global warming above pre-industrial levels.
What does that mean?
The biosphere of earth is naturally designed to be in a dynamic equilibrium. Essentially, any CO2 the biomass produces can be removed by other biomass. This is possible thanks to carbon sinks (storage houses for large amounts of carbon) and plant respiration. But human industrial advances are throwing the equilibrium out of balance. We are producing more CO2 emissions than the carbon cycle can account for.
A 1.5℃ global temperature increase is the result of global warming. When CO2, Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), and Fluorinated gases become trapped in the atmosphere, they create a "blanket" around the earth. These gases are emitted naturally, but the disastrously high current levels of emission are a result of human activity. This gaseous "blanket" effectively traps solar energy in the atmosphere and radiates it back as heat.
The important thing to remember when hearing about the 1.5℃ global temperature increase is that the 1.5℃ is an increase in the average global temperature. Temperatures in your small town will increase more than 1.5℃.
An increase in the average global temperature disrupts natural biocycles. It means declining coral reefs, decreasing tonnage caught in global fisheries, rising sea levels, increasing frequency of heat waves, and a greater number of individuals being exposed to climate-related risks (remember those wildfires in California?).
Kinda terrifying, right?
It doesn't have to be.
This is not a debate of if we should have cars. This is a debate over whether we should take accountability for the consequences for our actions.
The greatest power to help our climate is held by corporations and politics. But there are steps we can take as consumers.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that the greatest thing a US citizen can do to help the climate is to vote.
If you're interested in steps you can take to be more eco-conscious when you're shopping, shop consciously.
Shopping consciously means buying what you need, buying second-hand, and buying from ethical sources. It might look something like this:
- Not buying that shirt you love at Kohl's and instead looking for a similar one in your local thrift store.
- Bringing your reusable coffee cup on your next coffee run.
- Investing in reusable produce bags so that you don't need to use the plastic ones the grocery store has.
- Asking yourself "do I really need this?" when browsing the clearance section at Target.
- Supporting local businesses under the general rule of thumb that shopping local has a lower carbon footprint than shopping in chain stores.
These are general ideas. Not all of these options are accessible to everyone. That's okay.
The important thing is trying.