TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Climate Change Facts
- COVID's Effect on The Planet
- The Environment As a Political Debate
- Environmental Rollbacks and Regression
- Take Action For Climate Change
Despite an abundance of indisputable evidence, about 20 percent of Americans still believe that human activity doesn’t play a role in climate change. Although scientists worldwide agree that global warming is happening at an accelerating rate and we have the data to back it up, we still can’t be convinced.
Modern-day politicians have turned this issue into a political debate, framing it almost as a fantasy of left-wing liberals. But this isn’t about tree-hugging hippies who want to sing “Kumbaya” while holding hands around a giant Sequoia. Even if you aren’t concerned about our forests, waterways, and wildlife, climate change will destroy humanity.
NASA reports that ice core samples provide clear evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased exponentially since the Industrial Revolution. Data has been collected over many years, in varying ways, painting a clear picture for scientists worldwide.
Researchers and scientists have taken samples from all over the world from different sources. These include ice cores, tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rock. There’s also satellite imagery and information based on other advances in technology.
Most important, this data isn’t fixed on current information - we’re able to compare our modern climate to past climates. There are clues frozen in glaciers and ice caps and buried in sediment at the bottom of the oceans. These samples give us a way to see an overall picture. It’s a picture that reveals that although the environment has always been dynamic, this isn’t a normal rate of change.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
In fact, current warming is happening at a rate that’s ten times faster than the average rate of warming. In addition, human activity is contributing to an increase in carbon dioxide levels that’s occurring 250 times faster than it did from natural sources in the past.
Here’s the major global symptoms that show us climate change is happening:
- Global temperature rise
- Warming ocean
- Shrinking ice sheets
- Glacial retreat
- Decreased snow cover
- Sea level rise
- Declining Arctic sea ice
- Extreme events
- Ocean acidification
Currently, the world consumes more natural resources than the planet can restore. The international research organization Global Footprint Network put on an initiative called Earth Overshoot Day. This initiative calculates the date each year when humanity’s demand for ecological resources outweighs what Earth can regenerate in that year.
“We are using resources and ecosystem services as though we had 1.7 Earths, and such an ecological overshoot is possible only for a limited time before ecosystems begin to degrade and, ultimately, collapse,” writes Marco Lambertini, Director-General of the World Wildlife Fund.
The Arctic has warmed much faster than predicted. The last five years have been the warmest on record. Climate-related disasters are on the rise. As executive director of Earth Day Initiative John Opperman said, “A disregard for science and basic facts are killing us. It is fueling epidemics and it is driving climate solutions further and further from reality."
When lockdowns first took place, it was easy to get excited about the near-immediate effect on the world around us. Skies cleared, canals cleared up, wildlife was seen skittering about in urban areas. Greenhouse gas emissions were dropping towards pre-WWII levels, according to a study published by Science of The Total Environment.
All of this provided us with first-hand evidence that humans really do have a major impact on climate change.
However, the pandemic has ultimately caused more detriment to the environment than good. Health and sanitation practices fueled an increase in single-use products and reversed gains made against disposables.
Worse yet, there have been some major rollbacks on environmental rules since the pandemic hit. The EPA even temporarily halted fines for air, water, and hazardous waste violations.
While the world was preoccupied with the global health crisis, big oil and gas companies lobbied governments for public funds and weaker environmental regulations - and won.
Unfortunately, climate change has taken a seat in divisive politics. The partisan gap is widening on the public’s opinions about environmental policy change.
The Pew Research Center shows us how deeply the partisan gap is widening between how republicans and democrats view environmental measures.
Their research found that most Americans don’t think environmental policy is a top priority. Even though three quarters of respondents are “particularly concerned” about the environment, only 20 percent report that they take measures to protect it.
Almost two-thirds of adults say climate change is having some effect on their local communities. The most-reported effects include long periods of unusually hot weather, severe weather and natural disasters, and eroding shorelines.
Despite tangible experience and hard science, politicians can still have a big impact on how Americans perceive these issues. It’s become more of an issue of political party than a practical discussion of what needs to be done.
But this isn’t really a political discussion, or about whether you’re blue or red. The problem we’re facing with the environment and global warming is one that affects all humanity.
The consequences of the government ignoring science are dire.
The Trump administration is currently working to reverse nearly 100 environmental rules. Of these, 70 have already been reversed, with another 30 in the works.
See our article to find out more about the Trump administration's
As the New York Times reported in July of this year, these environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.
For years, the fossil fuel industry has worked to obscure science from the public. In 2019 alone, the oil and gas industry spent over $125 million in lobbying at the federal level. Now with their exploitation of the health pandemic, the world is threatened with a high-carbon legacy that will survive long past the current crisis if we don’t pay attention.
While this is all devastating, there are actions we can take to change our future. Remember that you’re not too small to make a difference and that we can demand more from businesses.
Here are some actions you can take today to impact our tomorrow:
- Let your city leaders know you care about sustainability and want your city to enact environmental policies. You can go to your city’s website to find out about its environmental policies as well as how to contact local officials.
- Speak up about these issues on whatever platform you have. Education and spreading awareness is the key to making a difference.
- Support reproductive justice & education. Reproductive justice, including universal access to safe birth control, and the empowerment of women is crucial to ensuring a healthy future on our planet.
- Find and support local projects to #movethedate. The Move The Date movement is put on by the Global Footprint Network to help move the date of Earth Overshoot Day. An interactive map on their website can help you locate environmental groups in your area who are working to make a difference.
- Check to see if your money is invested in fossil fuels. Use this tool to find out if your mutual funds and ETFs have a negative impact on climate change, as well as to discover fossil-free investments.
- Get involved with EPA regulations. Citizens are able to get involved with EPA regulations by submitting comments when regulations are proposed.
- Influence congress. Congress is key to creating environmental regulations and laws. Learn the best way to communicate to members of Congress, send them effective messages, show up in person or use social media.
- VOTE! Make sure you’re registered to vote and find your local polling place or make a plan to mail your ballot in. Then, use this tool to track your ballot according to your state and make sure it’s been counted. Here’s a few other ways to know your vote counts this year.
Feature image by Annie Spratt