A dozen years to stop a global disaster Climate change’s long-term effects will soon be irreversible

“Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” We used to laugh at this well-known quip from Mark Twain. Sure, everyone complained, but it was assumed that there was nothing that we could do about the weather.

How times have changed. We have come to a point in our history where we not only can change the weather but we are also compelled to do so to ensure our own survival and that of most of life on the planet.

In October of this year, the United Nations dropped a bombshell. Commissioned in 2016 by the Paris Summit on Climate Change, the world’s leading climate scientists compiled a comprehensive report on the state of the environment. The result of this report is that there is only a dozen years for global warming to be checked at a maximum of 1.5 C. If we miss this target we risk catastrophic climate destabilization, including floods, droughts, temperature extremes, fires, and potentially the loss of hundreds of millions of lives.

Drought is one consequence of climate change. | Pixabay

None of this is news. Most of this science has been known for the last 40 years. Nonetheless, our carbon footprint continues to grow, accompanied by the forecasted environmental effects.

The gauntlet has been dropped. Twelve years is not a long time. We can no longer think in terms of preserving the status quo or making economic choices because they increase Gross National Product. Every lifestyle option now has to be evaluated in terms of how it will support life on this planet long term.

Extreme weather like flooding is another reality of climate change. | Pixabay

Change will happen. It is no longer business as usual. We are at the rarest of pivotal moments where we can actually direct change.  If we do not choose, it will be chosen for us and it will be the worst of possible outcomes.

Keeping it simple: an action plan.

Think:

Factor in carbon footprint when you make decisions: how you vote, how you shop, what car you buy, what trips you take.

It is time to give our collective heads a shake. Climate change is real. Ignoring the issue won’t make it go away.

Examine your values.  Envision what a sustainable lifestyle would look like.

We have grown up with the ideal that more is better, that the goal of life is to accumulate things, that our identity and happiness are invested in our possessions. This is not sustainable.

Walk:

Get outdoors. Walk. Hug a tree. Plant a garden. Shovel a sidewalk. Get your feet moving. Cycle.

Spending time outdoors puts people in closer contact with nature. | Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck

Statistics say that the average person spends less than 10 minutes a day outside. (Driving around in a vehicle doesn’t count.) If climate change doesn’t feel real, it is because we invest our time and money in thermostatically controlled environments and trips to the tropics during the brutally cold months. We need to actually feel the breeze on our faces, inhale fresh unfiltered air, listen to the sounds of birds, feel the grass beneath our feet.  Virtual reality is not reality.

According to statistics, people spend less than 10 minutes outdoors. | Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck

Act:

Reduce your footprint. Go solar, go green, buy local, cycle, ride the bus. Get off the couch.

Life is not a spectator sport. We cannot watch disinterestedly from the sidelines. We need to become actively engaged in fashioning our future. As Gandhi said, we need to be the change we want to see in the world.

We have 12 years to check global warming at a maximum of 1.5 C. | Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck

We need to make difficult choices that push us outside our comfort zone, unselfish choices which put the planet ahead of our individual entertainment. This goes far beyond changing our light bulbs to LED. This affects where we live and how we live on virtually every level.

Stay positive.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

We can do this. The technology is already in place and it gets cheaper and simpler as each day goes by. It just takes collective will.

This is a group effort, actually worldwide. What happens in the Middle East or Africa affects us in North America and vice versa. We cannot solve this problem alone.

The good new is that this crisis has the potential to unite us as a species and put an end to those disruptive practices of greed and hate. Again from Gandhi, “There are enough resources in this world for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck

Aydan is a social worker, blogger, tango dancer, outdoor enthusiast and co-parent with Patricia to 8 children and 16 grandchildren. He’s also a resident of the 'hood and loving it.

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