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Climate change has become part of your life. You go to social media, turn on the TV, talk with friends, and sustainability appears.
Everybody talks about it. People ask questions like: Are we going to solve it? Can we even do something? Is this really so bad?
Yet, we barely speak about the uncomfortable questions. The hard facts. The underrated building blocks of the issue that would provide a little clarity in this chaos.
At university, I specialized in sustainability. Since then, I’ve read 100+ articles on the topic. I’m binge-reading books and taking courses. I’m working in a startup that’s dedicated to climate action.
My aim with this article is to provide an overview of what’s happening, the scope of the problem, and a little hope. Because we’re not doomed yet.
#1. We have more carbon in the atmosphere than it has ever been since humans have existed
The first Homo Sapiens appeared around 315,000 years ago.
Greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere hasn’t been as high as today (420 parts per million) in the last 4 million years. Back then, the world looked different, though: it was hotter, oceans covered much of the land, and the animals that lived back then, are extinct today.
In that era, Earth’s average temperature was 2°–3°C (3.6°–5.4°F) higher than during the pre-industrial times.
A rich and diverse life existed 4 million years ago. But could such an environment supply billions of humans with food? Could a civilization flourish in such circumstances?
We’re yet to figure it out. But the odds are high it won’t.
#2. It’s not just carbon dioxide, and that’s good news
Carbon dioxide is a sneaky little gas.
According to climate change expert and author
, “25 to 40% of the CO2 in the atmosphere will remain for 500 years or more”.
Thus, reducing carbon emissions won’t have a visible impact soon. (Don’t get me wrong, carbon reduction still has to be the core of climate action. But the fact that we likely won’t grasp anything from the cutback makes this even more challenging.)
Luckily, climate change isn’t only about carbon dioxide.
It’s about methane (natural gas), black carbon (soot), fluorinated gases (used in air conditioning and refrigerants), and nitrous oxide (the “laughing gas” used for fertilizers) as well. These gases are a great opportunity for us to tackle climate change because their CO2 equivalents cause more warming, and they stay a lot shorter in the atmosphere than CO2.
The same amount of methane warms the planet 25 times stronger than CO2 but only has an average lifetime of a decade in our atmosphere.
Reducing the super climate pollutants could be our remedy. There are plans to do so. (If you want to contribute, don’t eat beef. Or at least not a lot.)
If we don’t take a chance on methane and co, we’ll likely face feedback loops and tipping points that will accelerate warming and make this whole shit even worse. A lot worse. A fucking nightmare.
#3. It’s not just an environmental crisis
Many people say they advocate for the planet. As a result, countless humans believe climate change is something abstract that will happen to the Earth one day.
But the thing is, it’s already happening right now with us.
We don’t have to save the planet, Mama Earth is kinda strong, and she’s gonna figure it out. She also has the time to figure it out. A few million years here and there don’t matter much.
Our planet will recover.
It’s not even our species that we need to save. Sapiens were also born to survive. There’s a lot from us, and our species will likely find a way out in a few generations.
It’s our society that’s at stake.
If we don’t act, our society will collapse like a house of cards. We could barely tackle Covid, what will happen if a slightly deadlier virus appears? What do we do if countries won’t have enough food and water supply? Do we have solutions to a large-scale migrant crisis? How to help those who’re the most vulnerable?
Climate change is a humanitarian, health, social justice, political and economic issue.
#4. Individual action won’t stop climate change, but it’s still crucial
I had an interesting yet frustrating conversation with my mentor the other day. She said people aren’t interested in reading about climate change because they either feel their actions don’t change anything or that it doesn’t matter because we’re already doomed.
Most people indeed feel this way, but none of this is true.
Individual action matters.
If everyone on this planet would change their lifestyle in six areas, we could cut emissions by 27%. Which isn’t a lot, I see. It’s not even nearly enough.
But if most humans on Earth cared only a little bit more and behaved only a little bit in favor of the planet, politics and businesses would also adapt.
The power of many people is that we can influence the government and the market. If politicians feel they won’t be elected next year because people want climate action, they’ll promise (and in better countries, act on) climate action.
Businesses only produce what people buy. If no one bought traditional cars anymore, it wouldn’t be profitable to produce them. If no one hopped on a short distance flight, those lines would collapse.
It’s not the impact of your individual action that matters (go and eat that beefburger once a week if you wish to) but the pressure we can collectively have on politics, businesses, and wealthy individuals.
#5. We’re not doomed yet
We’ve entered the era of hopelessness.
The number of people with climate anxiety is skyrocketing. After children and adults grasp the scale of the issue, they believe that was it. We’re screwed. And we can’t be unscrewed anymore.
I’ve also been there. Sometimes I still enter the rabbit hole of climate anxiety.
But our future isn’t entirely hopeless.
We need quick and collective action, but if we do so, we can secure a comfortable life for future generations. There are more and more people who dedicate their lives to climate action, and more and more who consume less, shift their diets and travel by train. We need all of this. Imperfect actions from imperfect people.
Our civilization has some solutions. We can slow down the rate of warming and limit it, and yes, that’s a fact.
The factors that hinder us from saving our civilization are societal and political. Buerocracry, lobbying, and the complicated human nature hinder us from limiting the terrifying consequences of climate change.
If we don’t act, we might experience apocalyptic scenarios.
But we’re not doomed yet.
While I do believe we’re not completely doomed yet, I also see if we keep hoping that everything will be alright, our civilization won’t survive for long.
So everyone who has been hopeless or skeptical or just unaware, please take action and talk about the topic. Share information with beautiful fellow humans, and let’s take action together.
Because the world we’ve created in the last few thousands of years is worth fighting for. Sure, there’s exploitation, greed, and suffering. But we also have art, collaboration, progress, support, and compassion.
And I want to show this to future generations.