Ask Eartha: The Time is Now to Address Climate Change
Dear Eartha, Last week a new climate change report was all over my newsfeed. Can you break it down for me — are we doomed? – Jared, Frisco
Jared, thanks for bringing up the huge elephant in the room. Sometimes it’s easier to ignore bad news, whatever it is, and pretend that life can go on as usual. But this is not one of those situations. As a global community, the actions we take now will determine the future of our planet.
In case you were completely off the grid and missed the news, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the scientific body that advises the United Nations on climate change — recently released a report detailing the global impacts of warming 1.5 degrees versus 2 degrees Celsius. This report was requested by officials from small island nations who were worried that the 2-degree target set in the Paris Agreement wasn’t aggressive enough.
As it turns out, that half-a-degree difference is pretty significant. Compared to 1.5 degrees warming, at 2 degrees, not only will 10 million more people be at risk of losing their homes to rising seas, but also several hundred million more people will be susceptible to poverty, crop yields will decline even further, availability of fresh water will decline and vector-borne diseases will spread further. Oh, and your beer will double in price, too.
Though the goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit warming to 2 degrees by 2100, the pledges countries actually made would result in 2.5 or 3 degrees of warming — and that was before the United States removed itself from the conversation. To get to 1.5 degrees, the world’s emissions need to fall to 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030. We’d also need to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Basically, we need to take bold action now instead of continuing to drag our feet about it. That means clean energy grids, airplanes that run on biofuels, technologies that remove carbon from the atmosphere and no more gas-powered cars. Can we do it? It’s a good question. One climate scientist at Rutgers University said she’s not sure, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is a goal we should aspire to.
Given the seriousness of the situation, it’s understandable why people start to lose hope. But don’t let that happen! You can make a difference in your life, in your community and in the country. Start by changing your own behavior. The actions that have the greatest impact include eating a (mostly) plant-based diet, switching to an electric car (even better, going car-free), buying clean energy and avoiding air travel. For more ideas, check out the High Country Conservation Center’s Climate Action Toolkit online. Once you start making changes in your lifestyle, encourage your friends and family to do the same. Because while your individual actions are important, it takes all of us working together to create a noticeable impact.
CHANGE THE SYSTEM
In addition to lifestyle changes, we also need elected officials willing to support and implement climate solutions such as expanding the use of renewable energy and electric vehicles, limiting the amount of carbon that polluters can emit and stopping deforestation. The good news is you play a role in this, too. Voting is a critical way to voice support for leaders willing to think big about solutions to climate change. And we’re in luck because Election Day is right around the corner!
In Summit County, voting is easy. Once you receive your ballot in the mail, simply follow the directions for correctly filling it out and sealing it. Then cast your vote by putting your envelope in the mail or dropping it off at one of five 24-hour ballot drop-boxes, the clerk and recorder’s office, or a Voter Service Polling Center (open on Election Day only). However you return your ballot, your deadline is 7 p.m. on Nov. 6, so make a plan and get it done. For questions about voting, check out the county’s election website.
You can also express your opinion during an upcoming Climate Action Plan Community Conversation. On Nov. 14 from 5:30–7 p.m. at the Frisco Adventure Park Day Lodge, High Country Conservation Center and its community partners will present information about a Climate Action Plan for Summit County. Attendees will also have the opportunity to share why fighting climate change is important to them.
Is humanity doomed? Only if we refuse to change. As Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, noted in a recent editorial, “If the human species specializes in one thing, it’s taking on the impossible.” Let’s get started.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.