Trying to get your average citizen to understand the dangers of climate change and the radical destruction of the earth’s eco systems is not an easy thing to do. In our work obsessed, productivity focused culture, environmental issues take a back seat to the relentless onslaught of modern life.
The average city dweller does not have time to think about green issues when rent is due, career pressure mounts and social obligations pile up. When grabbing coffee with a friend needs to be scheduled several days in advance, the notion of mass action on, well, anything simply isn’t an option.
While the “I’m too busy” line might have been acceptable a few years back, today it is not. The earth is now not only entering a new period of mass, accelerating extinction, there are now more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than in recorded history. Here is the latest bad news on our radically transforming climate (via Reuters):
Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2014 as the relentless fueling of climate change makes the planet more dangerous for future generations, the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.
“Every year we say that time is running out. We have to act NOW to slash greenhousegasemissions if we are to have a chance to keep the increase in temperatures to manageable levels,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.
Graphs issued by the United Nations agency showed levels of carbon dioxide, the maingreenhouse gas, climbing steadily towards the 400 parts per million (ppm) level, having hit a new record every year since reliable records began in 1984.
Carbon dioxide levels averaged 397.7 ppm in 2014 but briefly breached the 400 ppm barrier in the northern hemisphere in early 2014, and again globally in early 2015.
Soon 400 ppm will be a permanent reality, Jarraud said.
The repercussions of a permanently heated atmosphere are truly terrifying, and we need look no further than places like Iran — a country experiencing catastrophic temperatures in some of its regions — to understand what this might feel like on a day to day basis. A permanently heated planet would be inhospitable for a large number of species, and human supporting eco systems would disintegrate rapidly. And all of this while rising sea levels destroy human habitats — a horrifying prospect that appears to be well underway. As James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist declared along with 16 other leading co-authors in a shocking report earlier this year:
We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.
It is clear that this cannot go on if we want to survive the next few centuries and it is about time everyone got on board and got serious about putting a stop to this madness.
While cutting down on travel, recycling, donating to rainforest funds etc etc is great, the situation is so serious that nothing less than dramatic, mass coordinate action at a national level can prevent us from what is fast becoming an irreversible trajectory.
This might seem like an impossibility, but the truth is, nations throughout history have mobilized their entire populations for a single cause. If half baked lunatics can get millions of people to go to war using tacky propaganda posters and cringeworthy speeches, then it stands to reason that semi-competent political leaders can orchestrate a meaningful effort against climate change. And if we can go to war over small portions of land, we can fight climate change for all the land.
So make time to put pressure on your leaders, cut down on your own emissions, and start talking about climate change with anyone and everyone you can. Spreading awareness is action, and it isn’t that hard to do.
And remember that while work is important, so too is breathing clean air.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.