So this week the IPCC Climate Report was released giving off a Code Red for humanity. The interesting thing is that the report didn't tell us anything we didn't know. It's main conclusions hadn't changed since the last report, the calculations just got more precise. It described a bleak future: if we met all our climate goals we might just be able to keep it to heating up the planet with 1.5 degree Celsius. But hotter it will get. Since none of this is new, as neither is scientists warning us for the grave consequences of what we are doing to the planet, then the question is: Why are we not acting upon that information?
It seems mind boggling that while we live the results of our pollution every day: forest fires in southern Europe and California, big flooding in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands for example, yet we are not willing to do enough to turn the tide.
So a little bit about the picture of the future that the IPCC Report paints:
- Increasing heatwaves and forest fires
- Melting polar ice meaning rising sea levels, threatening those who live by the coast
- Warmer oceans that become more acidic, meaning less life in them
- Droughts at some places, heavy rainfall at others, meaning crops will struggle
We will arrive at 1,5 degrees warmer, the question is just when? If we carry on like we do now, we could hit it already in 2040. The more we cut our emissions drastically now the longer it will take us to get there.
So Why Are We Not Acting?
The more I read about it the more incredulous it seems that we are not doing enough! So I've tried to come up with some reasons of why people are not acting upon this very bleak future picture:
- It is a long-term problem that requires short-term sacrifices and boy, we suck at those. Giving up things we enjoy now (driving in our cars, using plastic bags, cheap electricity etc) for some unforeseeable future when we will be long dead is just really difficult for humans. Ignoring the problem therefore brings a lot of short-term pleasure, even if they may ruin the planet for our great-grand children. For not everyone the problems associated with climate change are visible either, making it seem even less worth it to change.
- It is a complicated problem that accelerates One cigarette won't kill you right? But smoking 20 years every day will have negative health consequences. That knowledge though won't stop you from smoking that one cigarette. Climate change hasn't been visible to a lot of people for long yet, meaning we are already at the point where the years of smoking have deteriorated someone's health. The planet is already sick now and we have missed the best window to act upon it...
- People suck with abstract concepts Say you have a noisy neighbor. That is pretty annoying and you would want to do something about it soon right? This is something that directly affects your daily life! Global warming and it's consequences however don't disturb you the way that noisy neighbor does. They are often quite far removed from you, making them less important to your busy brain...
So where do we go from here?
Will this upcoming Climate Summit in Glasgow be like all the others again? Leaders of the world make big promises, shake hands, smile and then... break these promises? It is up to us, citizens of the world, to elect leaders who will fulfill their promises and keep them to their promises, forcing them to take action. Because even though we cannot save the world by ourselves, we can do it with collective action from all the citizens! What do you think? What suggestions do you have that could help us mitigate this problem?