Where we stand in 2019

by | January 18, 2019

Welcome to the Crowdsourcing Sustainability community!

I hope you’re 2019 is off to a great start.

I thought this would be a good time to do a brief summary of the big picture and where we stand today (it’s not pretty), then share some highly encouraging news, and end with a reminder of the best things you can do to help.


Where we stand to start off 2019:

  • “We are more sure that greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change than we are that smoking causes cancer.” – Kate Marvel, NASA
  • We’ve warmed the planet by 1°C (1.8°F) since the industrial revolution. That may not sound like much, but it’s a ton. It takes us out of the temperature range in which we built our civilization (as shown below).

The baseline for the above graphic is the average temperature from 1960 – 1991. (YA = Years ago). Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

  • Government action has been inadequate. Leadership is lacking – many are still in the pockets of the fossil fuel billionaires. Others are stuck in the mindset of playing by the old rules, doing what is “politically feasible” rather than what is scientifically necessary for our health, safety, and prosperity. It’s the same old song they’ve been singing since I was born.
  • As it stands, if all countries were to meet their current pledges under the Paris Agreement, the world would likely warm by 3°C. At least.
  • BUT we’re not on track to meet our Paris goals. So we’re actually headed for 3.5°C – 4°C (6.3°F – 7.2°F) right now.
  • World Bank report said, “…there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible…the projected 4°C of warming simply must not be allowed to occur.”
  • The IPCC (top climate scientists from around the world), which has historically underestimated climate change, came out with a report three months ago that even 1.5°C of warming will be awful, but it’s still way better than 2°C of warming…implying that we should be shooting for 1.5°C instead.
  • That same report also told us that we must cut our emissions in half by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050 to have a chance at keeping global warming somewhat in check (limiting warming to 1.5°C).
  • BUT our emissions still haven’t even stopped going up yet. In 2018 we put more GHG emissions into the atmosphere than ever before.
  • 2018 is also in the record books for how hot it was. The 4 single hottest years on record have all happened in the last 4 years. The top 20 warmest on record have been in the last 22 years.

2018 Hottest years

So, we’re almost guaranteed to have bad climate change. We’re already experiencing the very beginnings of it actually. But the window to stop the worst of it is closing before our eyes. We need to realize how serious this is and keep in mind that every little bit of warming that we can prevent DOES make a big difference for us, our kids, people around the world, and everyone who may come after us.

This isn’t a throw up our hands and give up kind of situation. We have a lot to fight for. We have a lot of work to do.

And we’re the last ones who can do it.


…perhaps we should add in a bit on addressing climate change into those new year resolutions if we haven’t already?

New years resolution for the human race: Peak our greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 and lay the groundwork to drastically reduce them every year after that.


BUT, here’s the good news!

People are waking up to the reality of this situation we find ourselves in. There is a growing movement of people rising up and demanding action around the world. More and more are piling on board. Momentum is on our side.

Here are two other big, exciting developments.

1. A HUGE global climate agreement just went into effect

Signed in 2016, the Kigali Amendment just went into effect at the start of 2019. It is expected to prevent up to .5°C of warming!

Remember when we had that problem with the growing hole in the ozone?

The global community came together and agreed to phase out those ozone-depleting refrigerants (used in our air conditioners, refrigerators, etc.) with the Montreal Protocol. Turns out that manufacturers replaced the ozone-depleting refrigerants with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are a potent greenhouse gas – hundreds or thousands of times stronger than CO2. So we solved one problem and made another.

Luckily, the Kigali amendment largely solves this HFCs problem. 65 countries agreed to phase out HFCs by at least 80% in the next 30 years.

This is big!


2. The 2020 US election will thrust climate change into the limelight

Hallelujah, about time!

Addressing climate change is suddenly a, or the, top priority for several Democrats running for President in 2020. That means we’re at least going to start talking about this issue more regularly, help to further normalize the fact that it is incredibly important and urgent, and get concrete details on real plans to address it.

…if we’re lucky, we may even end up with someone who will lead the US in addressing the greatest challenge of our time.


Potential Democratic Candidates who will likely help push the topic to the forefront:

Jay Inslee (Governor, Washington): Inslee wants to be the climate guy. It is the cornerstone of his presidential bid. He believes people are ready and that it’s a winning issue…some polls suggest he’s on to something.

Bernie Sanders (Senator, Vermont): He’s been talking about climate change for years. Boldly. He held a “national town hall” for it just last month and has called climate change “the great crisis facing our planet, facing humanity”.

Jeff Merkley (Senator, OR): Backs the Green New Deal and is working on a bill for it in the Senate.

Corey Booker (Senator, New Jersey): Backs the Green New Deal. Has worked on other climate legislation.

Michael Bloomberg (Former Mayor of NY): A climate champion who understands the urgency.

Joe Biden (Former VP, Senator): Has said, “Denying climate change is almost like denying gravity.” and called it a “Deadly serious issue.”

Kamala Harris (Senator, California): Is interested in the Green New Deal, speaking with organizers behind the scenes.

Elizabeth Warren (Senator, Massachusetts): Aides have said she backs the “idea” of a Green New Deal. Has supported strong climate action, but it’s not her main focus.

Beto O’Rourke (Former US House Rep): Supports the “concept” of a Green New Deal. Seems like Beto also broke a “No fossil fuel money” pledge though. Hopefully taking fossil fuel money becomes a hot topic too.

Let’s hope climate change gets as much airtime as possible as they start jockeying for the top spot. We need people thinking about it, talking about it, and figuring out the best way to getting to zero emissions ASAP. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of how early the 2020 election cycle starts, but if it means they’ll actually start talking about climate change on TV more, I’m all for it.


What you can do

Friendly reminder, from last weeks article where 16 experts gave their advice on the most effective things you can do to help reverse global warming.

1. Speak up – break that climate silence!

Talk to the people you know about climate change and why it’s important to you. If we’re not talking about it, people don’t care. If people don’t care, we’ll never take action.

2. Get the right people to represent us in government.

How? Vote for climate champions. And do what you can to help them win.

3. Hold your existing representatives accountable.

Push for climate policies that are in line with what the science demands, not what is “politically feasible”. Bills for carbon pricing and initiatives like the Green New Deal are excellent. (remember we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030 and be net zero by 2050)

4. Collaborate. Organize with others. Join a movement!

Work with others to bring about real change. Whether it be in your community, company, or country, you have a better chance of making systemic changes when you join forces with other people. As Bill McKibben said, “Movements are, history would indicate, the one way we have of standing up to unjust, entrenched power.”

(for specific orgs and more detail, revisit the article)


I know the situation is grim, but let’s not forget that we have the solutions. They are profitable. They are beneficial for our health, our safety, and our well-being. They make the world better for us – and even more so for our kids. We just need to help scale them.


Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, comments, or helpful ideas!

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