CROWDSOURCING SUSTAINABILITY

The 5 Things You Need to Know About Climate Change

Understanding the biggest problem of the 21st century, what it means for society, and what it means for you.

Climate change is an enormous problem that we must solve. The first step to solving a problem is understanding it. Although lengthy, the information in this post needs to be known by as many people as possible because:

1. It will help people to better navigate our future world – for both themselves and their loved ones.

2. We need to have a lot of informed and empowered people in order to overcome climate change. When enough people really understand what’s happening, what’s at stake, and how to affect positive change, the necessary changes to ensure a brighter future will naturally follow.

Here are the 5 key things to know about climate change. All in one place. Nice and easy.

  1. Climate change is happening NOW.
  2. We do not have climate change under control. A sense of urgency is needed!
  3. Climate change is unquestionably a PEOPLE issue. It is the biggest threat humanity faces today.
  4. Climate change WILL AFFECT YOU.

And perhaps most importantly,

5.We are the cause and, therefore, WE MUST BE THE SOLUTION to climate change.

 

Each of these critical points is explored in detail after a quick introduction.

Climate change is the biggest and most urgent threat humanity is facing today. It is the type of threat that is generation-defining. Climate change will force each of us to acknowledge and deal with it in the coming years because of how disruptive and pervasive it will become in the global economy and our everyday lives. As climate expert and author Joe Romm puts it, “Everyone needs to be educated on climate change because climate change and our response to it is going to change the world over the next 25 years as much as the internet did in the last 25 years.”

Climate experts say continuing on our current path would be “catastrophic” for humanity.

According to Elon Musk, climate change could lead to “more displacement and destruction than all the wars in history combined.”

But could these claims possibly be true? They seem like they’re at least a bit exaggerated…right?

After reading this post you’ll be better able to come to your own informed opinion on that. But trust me, the more you know about climate change the more you’ll begin to understand how such provocative statements can be made, defended, and why some of the smartest people in the world are coming to similar conclusions. We could debate whether or not they will come true (I haven’t even made up my own mind on all of them yet), but doing so would miss the point. The fact that the threat is even in the ballpark of that magnitude, which it most certainly is, should be enough to arouse anyone’s curiosity so that they can start to understand what this new world will look like – if for no other reason than to see what opportunities and risks it presents to them.

But you’d never guess that there even was an imminent threat judging by our conversations and day to day actions. The lack of attention climate change gets is baffling. Up to two billion people don’t even know about climate change. Of those that do know about it, some don’t believe it and most of the rest of us hardly talk about it. The news rarely mentions climate change even as they cover the natural disasters it encourages and intensifies. What is going on here? As Ezra Klein wondered in 2010, “Can we solve global warming without talking about global warming?”

Climate change isn’t talked about much for several reasons:

  1. We haven’t completely wrapped our heads around what we are doing and what the consequences are.
  2. There’s a “spiral of silence” around climate change. We generally avoid talking about climate change because it’s unpleasant, uncomfortable, scary, and overwhelming…quick let’s move on!
  3. Climate change seems far off, distant. We don’t think it’ll impact us (even if we do think it will affect others).
  4. We feel helpless to do anything about it.

These are all understandable, although reasons 3 and 4 are inaccurate.

I touch upon reasons 1-3 in this post and dive deeper into reason 4 in “Can One Person Really Make a Difference?” and “How to Help Stop Climate Change“*. We will play a crucial part in turning this around (lookin’ at you).
*Spoiler: We are all more powerful than we realize and can each help to make a meaningful difference in stopping climate change 🙂

If someone doesn’t understand what climate change is all about or how it will impact their life, especially in the near term, chances are they aren’t going to think about it. That’s human nature. There’s a general feeling for most individuals that it’s not a problem or “not my problem.” Our leaders, corporations, and media have not clearly or effectively communicated to the broader public that climate change is a problem and that it will affect everyone. This has been a disservice to humanity. Our lack of understanding reflects the state of our profit-driven media and the power of fossil fuel incumbents to not only control politicians but to confuse the public with disinformation campaigns. In fact, the extent to which the threat and urgency of climate change has been downplayed is not only disgraceful but dangerous. It has allowed the problem to get worse and delayed society’s collective and powerful response to the problem – a response that is inevitable once the reality of our situation is widely understood and accepted.

The following will help to illustrate some of the most critical aspects of climate change.

Climate change is happening NOW.

It’s time to rid ourselves of the mindset that climate change is some far off issue that only our kids and grandkids will have to deal with. We don’t even have to take the experts’ word for it anymore. We can see the changes with our own eyes now. It’s no longer an abstract concept. Climate change is real and it’s here today.

Up to now, I believe climate change and our lack of response to it can be partially conveyed through a couple of fables:

“The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.” – David Foster Wallace Climate change is easily overlooked. It has been a gradual, rather than a sudden change. Since the average weather changed over decades rather than overnight, it makes sense that most of us haven’t really noticed a difference like the boiling frog. And for many of us, especially younger people, we’ve never experienced weather that was not affected by climate change – much like fish who don’t realize they’re in water. Shockingly, if you are 33 or younger you’ve never experienced a cooler-than-average month compared to 1950-1981 temperatures. This baseline is even a bit conservative. If you were to use 1881-1910 temperatures, you’d have to be over 53 years old to have lived through a cooler than average month.

We’re changing the temperature at a rapid pace. According to a Stanford study that looked back 65 million years, temperatures are changing 10-100 times faster today than at any time since the dinosaurs. By burning greenhouse gases (GHGs) for the last 250 years we’ve changed the physical composition of our atmosphere. We’ve changed the climate of the last 12,000 years in which the agricultural revolution took place, the first civilizations appeared, writing was invented, and all the major religions were started. We made crucial, climate-dependent decisions, such as choosing safe places to live, under the assumption the climate would remain stable. But the stability of Earth’s climate is not something you can take for granted – which is now clear based on how drastically we’ve changed it.

The baseline for the above graphic is the average temperature for 1960 – 1991. (Y.A. = Years ago) Due to this rapid temperature increase, it makes sense that we shouldn’t expect the weather to be the same as what we’ve always known it to be. The historical probabilities we used to rely on for weather no longer apply. Not only are our average days and months hotter than they used to be, but we are now seeing what used to be incredibly improbable, extreme weather events more and more often. And they’re more intense.
For you statistic wizards out there, this bell curve shows how the normal distribution of summer temperatures has changed over the last 6 decades in the Northern hemisphere (NASA data). For the rest of us muggles, you can think of our daily weather like rolling a pair of dice. Each die is numbered 1 to 6, so when rolled the sum is between 2 and 12. As you can see in the “Historical Odds” table, we will either get a cooler-than-average temperature (rolling 2 to 6), an average temperature (6 to 8), or a hotter-than-average temperature (8 to 12) depending on what is rolled. Each happens 33% of the time* using the baseline data from 1950-1981, which we’ll call the “Historical” Odds.
*To make this work mathematically, 60% of the 6’s and 8’s rolled would count towards “Average” temperature, 20% towards “cooler than average”, and 20% towards “hotter” than average.
These tables were put together using NASA’s data as a starting point. The dice analogy is taken from them too although it has been tweaked and extrapolated to make it a bit clearer conceptually (IMHO). The tables highlight how daily weather has changed, and continues to change, as a result of climate change.

But we don’t actually play with these “Historical” odds anymore. Humans have completely changed the odds by emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere and causing the climate to change. Check out the “Current Odds with Climate Change” table above. Our weather is way different from what it was just a few decades ago. It’s as if we loaded the die so that higher numbers are rolled more often and we drew some extra dots on the dice so that we can now roll higher than a 12. This means that what used to be considered “hotter than average” is now our “average weather”. We have more or less created a new category of “incredibly rare heat” which we reach 6,410% more often than we used to.

If that weren’t bad enough, we continue to load the dice towards higher numbers every day. We will ultimately determine how high the numbers get based on how much more GHG emissions we put into the atmosphere.

Is climate change the sole reason for all of the natural disasters we have witnessed recently? No, it is not the sole reason. It’s hard to attribute any one specific event to climate change because there has always been extreme weather. But has climate change increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather? Absolutely. Would we be seeing so many “rare” and devastating extreme weather events in recent decades if climate change weren’t happening? No shot.

The following list highlights recent extreme events that are very likely linked to climate change. I would say definitely, but well, you just can’t do that because nobody technically knows much of anything for sure. Climate change is here now and is just getting started. Expect to see more along the lines of the following extreme events as climate change worsens:

  • Houston, Texas faced devastating storms 3 years in a row. Each of these storms was only supposed to happen once every 500 years. Pre-climate change odds of this happening: ~ 1/125,000,000 (.000000008%).
  • Hurricane Irma set various records including sustained wind speeds of 185 mph for 37 hours straight. It was about the size of France or Texas.
  • Hurricane Maria forced hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to flee to the US mainland. Six months after the event, 200,000 people on the island still didn’t have power.
  • Miami now floods regularly.
  • Louisiana loses a football field’s worth of land every hour and is home to some of the first people being forced to leave their homes in the US (Alaska too).
  • The 4 million people in Cape Town, South Africa are running out of water. The city almost had to shut off the taps in the spring of 2018 due to a three-year drought. Had “Day Zero” come to pass,  citizens would have lined up at 200 stations to get their allotted 25 liters (6.5 gallons) of water each day. Perspective: the typical American uses 340 liters of water daily. The average shower uses ~65 liters. Pre-climate change odds of so little rain in 2016 and 2017: ~ 1/1,150 (0.09%).
  • “Wildfires in the western United States have been increasing in frequency and duration since the mid-1980s, occurring nearly four times more often, burning more than six times the land area, and lasting almost five times as long (comparisons are between 1970-1986 and 1986-2003)”.  – Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Desertification – 12 million hectares (⅓ the size of California) of productive land becomes barren each year. – United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
  • ~ 24-150 species become extinct each day as we’re in the midst of a mass extinction. Extinction of species is occurring at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate.
  • On average, 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes each year since 2008 due to sudden, extreme weather events linked to climate change. – UN Refugee Agency
    • To put this in perspective that’s like ⅔ of the US population (every person living in a state other than CA, TX, NY, and FL) being forced to leave their homes at some point in the last decade due to dangerous climatic events. Or 90% of Australia’s population being displaced every single year.
  • According to NOAA the number of $1 billion extreme weather events is up 400% since the 1980’s.
  • $306 billion in damage from natural disasters in 2017 set a US record. That’s enough money to send all 13.5 million US students enrolled in public universities to school tuition-free for 4 years.
I focused mainly on the US here, as that’s where I’m from and where most of my readers will be from to start. Please keep in mind the US covers 2% of the earth’s surface and our news hardly spends any time informing us of the happenings in the rest of the world. Crazy stuff is happening everywhere.

Do you know anyone who has been affected by climate change yet? If not, you surely will soon.

We do not have climate change under control. A sense of urgency is needed!

Please keep in mind that I don’t say this to scare you. Not at all. In fact, I hope to do the opposite – to eventually empower you to face it head-on. I am giving it to you straight because that’s the first step. We must understand and confront the reality of the situation we find ourselves in before we can fix it.

I’m sure some may think that talking about climate change with such urgency is “overblown” or “alarmist”. My response to that is: if you accept all the facts and think the path we’re on is just fine, then let’s chat. I’d honestly love to be convinced that’s the case and see the scientific literature on it. The reality is, the changes we are witnessing are largely in line with what scientists have been telling us for decades and it points to a dire situation. If anything, scientists have actually underestimated climate change in their projections over and over again – possibly because of such “alarmist” accusations. As newer and better climate modeling comes out, we continually see that the situation is worse than we thought.

We all have to deal with the impacts of climate change. What good does sugar-coating it do?

Under the Paris climate accord every country in the world except the US has agreed to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” 2°C (3.6°F) is the widely agreed upon limit of warming because it’s a straightforward target and seen as the threshold where the impacts from climate change are escalated from “dangerous” to humanity to “catastrophic”. The main things to know about the Paris agreement are:

  1. The world has united and recognized climate change as a global threat – amazing.
  2. Countries submitted pledges to reduce their emissions. They are supposed to increase those pledges every 5 years, measure progress, and report on their status regularly – love it.
  3. It is a non-binding agreement with no penalties for non-compliance – alright, not ideal.
  4. The initial pledges made to reduce emissions are nowhere near enough to limit warming to the goal of 2°C (shown in the chart below) – wait, what?!? I thought they were going to get this figured out?

Although it’s a much-needed step in the right direction, when you look into the Paris climate accord you see that it’s just that. A first step. World leaders came together, agreed climate change is an enormous, global issue and then didn’t know how to take action to immediately reduce the amount of emissions that we need to. It’s essentially a “we should do this, but we don’t really know how to right now…so let’s just talk about it again in a few years?” agreement.

Don’t get me wrong here – the fact that we have a global agreement is fantastic and there are some great things about it, but it’s just one of the many things we need to do as a society to fight this invisible, common enemy of GHGs. Alone, the agreement is not enough. Clearly, our world leaders don’t have this under control. Our leaders have known about climate change for several decades and have floundered in their collective response to fight climate change. Regular people will have to step up.

So, yes, we’re not even close to staying under 2°C warming right now compared to pre-industrial temperatures, but why is 2°C so important in the first place? Do you really notice a big difference between a 59°F and a 62.6°F day (15°C and 17°C)? Let’s be honest. 2°C just sounds trivial…like, super wimpy. What’s the big deal?

Unfortunately, when we hear that the Earth is warming by 2°C, our intuitive understanding of the magnitude and consequences of such a change is inaccurate – we dramatically underestimate the true severity, and thus implications, of such a temperature change. Rather than thinking about what that wimpy 2°C change in weather feels like, a better way to think about it is how you feel when your body temperature increases by 2°C (3.6°F). Looking at it this way, 2°C turns us into a bunch of wimps. We are bedridden with a fever, fighting off an illness when our temperature goes up by 2°C. Humans are physiologically stable at 37°C or 98.6°F, and if the heat is turned up just a tad (to 39°C or 102.2°F for example), we’re out of commission. We feel like crap. That slight change in temperature has an outsized impact on us.

The difference between our fevers and Earth’s: our fevers help us get better by killing off invaders and we typically feel better in a day or so. The Earth, on the other hand, will have its fever for hundreds or thousands of years. It will render large swaths of the planet uninhabitable as Earth’s ecosystems deal with the additional heat and extreme weather. A lot of life (that includes people), will die as a result of the domino effect of the changes set in motion. Although a 2°C limit is the globally agreed upon goal to avoid societal catastrophe, we are on track to blow right by it. The situation is not pretty.

In 2016 the planet was 1.1°C (2°F) hotter than it was in the late 1800’s. This is directly in step with humanity’s rising GHG emissions (see below).

Even if we eliminated greenhouse gas emissions immediately, it’s been estimated the global average temperature would increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F) no matter what because there is a lag time for the earth to heat up. You know how it takes a little time for water to heat up to a boil when you’re cooking? Well, it’s the same for Earth because it’s mostly water, but instead of taking minutes to warm up, it likely takes between 10 and 40 years. So warming from our most recent decade(s) hasn’t even hit us yet.

Conservatively assuming this warming brings us to 1.5°C, that leaves us with 0.5°C of warming left before we hit the 2°C limit. According to some studies we only have a 5% chance of staying under 2°C. Most, if not all, of the climate models out there that do show a path to staying under 2°C, do so by including negative emissions technologies that are unproven and require an unrealistic amount of land. I’m not saying it’s impossible or that something else won’t come along because, well, who knows? But would it be wise to depend on these unproven or non-existent technologies given what’s at stake?

Rather than banking on a new technology to come along and save the day, it would be far more prudent to start doing what we can right now to reduce emissions. We have the technology to do it and it is now economical. As you can see in the previous charts, our emissions have not even peaked yet. Some do think we are close, but for now, the fact remains that our emissions continue to go up each year when we desperately need to be reducing them as quickly as possible.

As it stands today, we’re currently on track for 2°C to 4.9°C (3.6°F to 8.8°F) of warming above pre-industrial times by 2100. The median temperature of the forecast is 3.2°C (5.8°F). Again, this may not sound like too big of a deal initially, but it would be absolutely devastating for civilization. Remember the fever analogy? How would you feel with a fever that high? There’s a decent chance you would be in the hospital and you’re actually approaching fatal levels on the high end of that range.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says unabated climate change would have “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” The world bank said “there’s no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible”.

Let that sink in for a second. We are not in control and seriously need to get on top of it. There is simply too much at stake.

Climate change is unquestionably a PEOPLE issue. It is the biggest threat humanity faces today.

Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue, or about all of the animals and plants that are becoming extinct. No, at its core climate change is about people! It’s about our safety and having what we need to get by. You know, the basics that so many of us take for granted today.

The reality is that around the world there will be an unbelievable amount of suffering, death, and change like humans have never seen before because of climate change. Unfortunately, that is not hyperbole and I don’t say it lightly.

Climate change attacks us from all angles. It decreases the supply of our most basic necessities: fresh-water, food, health, and safe places to live. Natural disasters will become more commonplace. Mass migration and instability will occur more often due to more frequent crop failures, water scarcity, destruction of basic infrastructure, power outages, sudden storms, and consistently extreme weather around the world. When people can no longer support themselves in the places they live, they are forced to leave their homes. Not because they want to, but because they have to in order to survive and improve their chances of a decent life.

This is already happening to millions of people around the world today – real, live people just like you and me. They are in this situation through no fault of their own. Many were born into it. If you put yourself in their shoes you’ll realize how desperate the situation is by the questions you would be forced to ask yourself: Should we leave our home? Where else can we go? Will it be safe there? How will I provide for my family? Will we ever be able to come back home?

As I mentioned earlier, 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes each year since 2008 due to sudden, extreme weather events linked to climate change (UN Refugee Agency). And this figure does not account for people affected by the non-sudden or “slow-onset climate change impacts” such as decreasing crop productivity, water shortages, or sea level rise. The World Bank published a study in March 2018 saying that over 143 million people in just three regions of the world could become internal climate migrants by 2050. Importantly, they also said that number could be reduced by 100 million if GHG emission reductions are ramped up aggressively.

According to the UN, 600 million people live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level and 2.4 billion live within 60 miles (100 km) of the coast. The last time Earth was 2℃ warmer than pre-industrial temperatures, the sea was 16 to 32 feet higher (5 to 10 meters) than it is today. The general consensus is that we’re not expected to reach that level anytime soon, but it should serve as a warning because it has happened before, so such extremes are possible. In the US there are already 90 communities dealing with chronic flooding. That number is expected to rise to 170 in the next 20 years.

In 2050 we’re expected to have 2.5 billion more people, which is 33% more than the 7.5 billion today. The majority will be born in low-income countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change – the same countries that have contributed the least to the climate change.

The global supply of water will be 40% short of demand by 2030. And by 2050 we will need 60% more food than we are producing today (UN). Climate change poses serious risks to each of these vital resources.

More people + less resources = not good

The World Health Organization (WHO) “conservatively estimates that climate change will cause some 250,000 additional deaths per year by the 2030s”.

Other organizations have estimated much higher numbers. Pollution alone kills millions each year (a more direct linkage to fossil fuels killing), but let’s stick with the WHO’s 250,000 estimate. To put this in perspective in what I intend to be a respectful and eye-opening manner, think of what a tragedy 9/11 was. 2,996 people lost their lives as a result of a brutal terrorist attack. The world, and especially the US, mourned that event for a long time and actually united because of it. It was absolutely heart-wrenching to see so many lives lost and families suffering unnecessarily. As awful as 9/11 was, the magnitude of death and destruction on that day pales in comparison to what climate change will bring.

According to that conservative WHO estimate, climate change will be like 9/11 happening every 4.4 days by 2030.

For these reasons, climate change is recognized as a national and global security issue around the world. What else could bring 200 nations together to agree on something?

The US Department of Defense has called climate change a “threat multiplier”. They see it causing instability in regions around the world. It’s been on the DoD’s radar since the early 2000’s, at least. According to the Pentagon, “climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.”

In 2017 a group of retired military officers wrote in a letter to top White House officials, “Climate change poses strategically significant risks to U.S. national security, directly impacting our critical infrastructure and increasing the likelihood of humanitarian disasters, state failure, and conflict.”

US military officers don’t mess around. Those are very strong words. Our modern civilization is more fragile than most of us realize. Climate change is exposing its weaknesses. It will reduce the supply of the basic needs we’re used to having. Having those basic needs met are the building blocks of a stable society, so once removed, as the military officers explained, humanitarian disasters, state failure, and conflict become more likely.

Stopping climate change matters because doing so keeps people safe and well. Millions of people are having their lives turned upside down by climate change today and even more will going forward. Even if you are one of the lucky ones living in a particular region of a high-income country that hasn’t experienced too many dramatic impacts yet, I hope you can start to get an idea of how climate change will affect you going forward as it pervades the global web of people, resources, infrastructure, geopolitical relationships, civility, and trade that makes the world tick.

Climate change will affect YOU.

Let’s be clear on why climate change does, in fact, matter to you even if you haven’t realized it up until now. As outlined above, climate change will drastically affect the world and society as we know it. In response to this threat, the world will be forced to decarbonize rapidly in the coming decades while also developing resilience strategies. This will completely transform society as we know it. You are a part of this interconnected society and depend on countless people, companies, natural processes, invisible systems, and of course a safe and habitable climate in your day to day life. As society transitions to handle the new challenges, you and your loved ones will have to adapt to the new reality as well. In the following, I don’t include the effects that potential geopolitical tensions, conflict, or internally displaced people could have on you. I also don’t spell out the possibility of being directly impacted by food or water shortages – which is already affecting millions. Nor do I include the increasing chances of directly experiencing extreme climate events. Instead, I focus on things that are more relatable to most people’s current life in high-income countries and explore how the trends of climate change will likely manifest itself in various aspects of our lives. When it comes down to it we all want similar things in life. We want to be healthy, have strong, loving relationships with our family and friends, to be able to provide for the people we love, to keep them safe, to have fun, and ultimately to enjoy life. If you care about these things, it would be wise to understand how climate change will affect them – because it most certainly will if it hasn’t already. Some of the following points are valid now and others are more future-oriented. Both are worth keeping in mind as time goes on. Safety for you and your family

  • Location: Are you living in a safe place? What is the risk of extreme storms, flooding, drought, heat waves, and wildfires where you live? All of these extreme events have the potential to be costly, traumatic, destructive, and even deadly. Parts of the world that are habitable today will not be in the future. When choosing where you and your loved ones physically live, the safety risks posed by climate change should not be ignored.
    • Government: What is the stability of the society and government like? Are they prepared for extreme events? Are they being proactive by taking adaptive measures to address new risks posed by climate change?

Finances We all need money to support ourselves and our loved ones. Companies and governments around the world are starting to adjust their assets, investments, and operations to deal with a world with climate change. They see the financial risks to their old way of doing things and are adjusting their behavior. Are you?

  • Home: There is a financial risk to buying property in locations that are increasingly under threat due to climate change. One example of this would be coastal areas. The ocean is rising at an accelerating rate and it’s projected to impact millions of people living on the world’s coastlines. The ocean will rise higher in some places than others – like the east coast of the US. Not only does this increase the risk of more frequent and damaging storms and flooding, but it also raises the question: how much is a home worth that is in the line of fire of these floods and storms? The same goes for any other extreme climatic event factors for that matter, such as deadly heat waves, wildfires, and droughts. At some point, the real estate market will naturally adjust values to match the new risks and reality. Insurance coverage will be exorbitant or unavailable.
  • Career: In a world that needs to minimize GHGs ASAP, industries and companies that have business models that are antithetical to this new world are at great risk. They will become obsolete or change dramatically. On the flip side, there will be much more opportunity for businesses that help to fight climate change and provide value in a responsible manner. Also, companies that provide services regarding adaptation to climate change will flourish as well. There is always more job security and opportunity for advancement when you’re working in a growing industry.
  • Investments: Big money is starting to incorporate sustainability into their investment strategies. Beware of investing in companies with business models that are misaligned with decarbonizing the world or are significantly less sustainable than their industry peers. Climate change can also impact the available supply and thus the price of natural resources, as well as the climatic conditions and stability of where products travel in the supply chain. These are inherent risk factors for many businesses and should be considered.

Fun stuff I’m sorry. I don’t want to be the one to break it to you, but there will be less of some of the awesome stuff we know and love…but perhaps knowing this we’ll begin appreciating it more? Plus, I’m sure the future will bring a lot of cool stuff to make up for it!

  • Travel and Activities – With current trends, you won’t be able to travel to as many places in the world in the future. Some places will be uninhabitable. Others will be dangerous due to lack of resources and potential for conflict. There will be fewer beautiful things to see such as coral reefs, glaciers, beaches, and possibly rainforests. Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding will be available in fewer places and for less time during the year. They’ll also be more expensive and probably more crowded.
  • The good stuff – There will be less coffee, chocolate, beer, and wine. It will be more expensive and sometimes just different.
    • Coffee: According to Australia’s Climate Institute, “hotter weather and changes in rainfall patterns are projected to cut the area suitable for coffee in half by 2050.” NPR interviewed farmers in Brazil, which produces the most coffee in the world – many are already moving out of the coffee business for good because crops are failing and they need a reliable source of income.
    • Chocolate: “Climate change and unsustainable farming techniques have decreased the land used for cacoa crops by 40% in the last four decades.” NOAA says the temperature is projected to rise 2.1℃ in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire by 2050, making it harder for cacao to grow. They produce 60% of the world’s chocolate.
    • Beer and wine: Like these other plants, barley, hops, and grapes will have a harder time growing in the future as well. New varieties of crops will need to be used. Regions that are known for certain wines will eventually have to change. Drought is making yields increasingly difficult not only for growing the plants but also for making the beer. Breweries are forced to use groundwater rather than river water at times now due to water shortages. As a local Californian brewer put it, “it’s like brewing with Alka-Seltzer”.

Identity Believe it or not, at some point we will likely judge ourselves or be judged by others based on our net contributions to climate change. Before I go further, please know I don’t intend to guilt you or imply that you’re a bad person in any way. No, climate change was given to us – we’re living in a broken system. And I believe people are fundamentally good anyway. I just hope the following thought experiment provides you with a new lens through which to look at climate change if you haven’t looked at it this way already. Make of it what you will! I would bet that many of us will, at some point, look back on our lives and judge ourselves based on what we knew and how we acted on climate change because of the moral implications. This is because, fundamentally, you are either part of the problem or you are part of the solution. By polluting GHGs we harm other people and ourselves. That is a fact. By polluting GHGs unnecessarily or unconsciously, we are saying, through our actions, that we don’t care about the harmful effect of our actions on others both today and tomorrow. If you personally don’t care that’s fine, but I can assure you that your kids or grandkids will care because they will have to deal with the climate we leave for them. They will be the ones harmed or disadvantaged the most by what we do now. They’ll learn about how the world used to be, how we altered the climate with fossil fuels, when we realized we were destroying it, and what was or wasn’t done once we knew. What will you say when your child inevitably asks you, “If people knew about it, why didn’t they do anything to stop it?” and “Did you do anything about it?” Do you think of yourself as a good person? Do your actions align with your values? If they don’t there is cognitive dissonance. There’s a difference between who you want to be or think of yourself as and who you actually are. Removing this discrepancy aligns your values and actions. It makes you happier. I am not one to impose or judge. I just would like everyone to have thought this through because I don’t think we fully realize what we’re doing yet. I think once people have looked at it this way, some may see it differently, which is why I say it. But, by all means, do what you want to do! You are a free person and get to make your own decisions! Moral considerations aside, you have every reason to selfishly make climate change your number one big picture issue or at least start incorporating it into your decision making because it will impact each of us that much.

5. We are the cause and, therefore, WE MUST BE THE SOLUTIONto climate change.

Climate change is happening because there are too many GHG emissions entering our atmosphere. We are the ones putting them there. Each and every one of us. You and me. Every day. So, we also inherently have the ability to stop it from happening. We just have to do what we can now and figure out how to keep doing it better going forward. Luckily, the information and tools we need to fight climate change already exist. It is now up to us, everyday people, to spread awareness and be the message by doing what we can to fight climate change – to build a sustainable society. How quickly we become sustainable is what matters. The sooner we become sustainable, the better our world will be both today and tomorrow. Our world will be safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable, and more people will have a chance to prosper. That also means you will have a better life and leave a better future for your kids. But this can only happen if we decide that’s what we want and take action to make it a reality. It’s time for climate change to be humanity’s number one priority. It is more than worthy. The price of our inaction is too high in terms of human lives and future wellbeing. Who doesn’t want a safer, more equitable, prosperous, and overall better world? Okay, I know that is a lot to absorb, but it’s important to know where we stand. My next two posts are much more uplifting and solution-oriented. Check ’em out! In my next post “Climate Change: Can One Person Really Make a Difference?” I explain why what we do (or don’t do) as individuals really does make a meaningful difference. After that, I outline what you can start doing to help create a better future in “How to Help Stop Climate Change”.

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