Climate change is an immediate danger to humanity. Every year for the past 37 years has been warmer than average. And the twelve warmest years have all happened since 1998. We are experiencing this through rising global temperatures, increased numbers of storms and natural disasters. These environmental changes will cause massive human suffering and destruction in the decades to come unless human beings change the way we live on this planet.
The majority of scientific researchers agree that human beings are causing global climate change. How do we know human beings cause this change? Climate scientists have understood for decades that carbon dioxide in the air causes a greater amount of the sun’s heat to remain in the atmosphere, heating the planet. Since humans began burning fossil fuels – oil and coal – the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 500 billion tons, one third of the total. The temperature is rising fast as the carbon dioxide traps heat. The last time that carbon dioxide was as concentrated as it is today, the earth was three degrees hotter, melting the ice caps and raising the sea-levels by 100 feet.
What does this rise in temperature lead to? Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the Earth’s temperature has been raised by 0.8 degrees.
This has already resulted in drastic changes. One third of the ice in the arctic has melted, and there is five percent more water in the atmosphere. This has resulted in rising sea levels and an increase in the sort of floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis that have been in the headlines in the last years. The changing composition of the oceans has led to a 30 percent increase in acidity, causing massive destruction of fish and other marine animals. Increasing temperatures have released carbon dioxide as well as methane and other gases trapped in arctic ice, speeding up the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, accelerating the warming process.
The consequences of these environmental changes will continue to be drastic. Climate change will cause even more massive expansion of deserts. Farmland will be destroyed by this process of desertification. Climate scientists predict that if this takes place, within a generation as many as three billion people will face famine and starvation. In other words, climate change threatens to kill almost half of humanity.
Time is running out. Scientists predict that if the Earth’s temperature increases beyond two degrees, the changes will be irreversible. Too much ice will have melted and too much carbon dioxide will have been released. The problem is that scientists predict we will likely reach the tipping point within 16 years, and if so we won’t be able to stop the earth from reaching the two-degree limit.
What stands in the way of reducing carbon emissions? The money which corporations stand to make. In 2006 Nicholas Stern head of Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy in London issued a report responding to dozens of investigations done by climate scientists. The climate scientists set a firm limit of carbon in the atmosphere in order for humans and about 50 percent of the world’s species to survive. The Stern report said that the proposed limit was too low because the world economy would go into crisis. In other words, in order for capitalism to continue, 50 percent of the world’s species including our own must go extinct. It is as if we are headed for a cliff and these companies are putting their foot down on the gas pedal and asking us to close our eyes.
There is a simple solution – to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emission by changing the way human beings live on the planet. To begin to use human creativity to restore rather than ruin the environment – to live consciously in the world. We have a choice – Climate change or system change.