Paris is experiencing record-breaking heat waves. It reached 90 degrees in Anchorage, Alaska last month, for the first time in recorded history. Heat waves in the UK and the United States are breaking records. Glaciers are melting more rapidly than ever before.
Amidst all this climatic chaos, President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Not only that, but the Trump administration has been systematically destroying environmental regulations designed to curb carbon emissions and deleting or ignoring references to climate change in reports from government agencies. In Britain, they just elected their own version of Donald Trump in the form of Boris Johnson.
There’s a lot to be frustrated about, but now’s not the time to fall into despair. We need to act now if we’re going to save the planet from the ravages of climate change.
Once upon a time, it was supposed that we had until 2030 to make the changes necessary to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5 C this century. But now there’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with global climate change and other environmental challenges such as species extinction.
The 2020 deadline was clear even as far back as 2017, when Hans Joachim Schelnuber, founder and director emeritus of the Potsdam Climate Institute, said, “The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020.”
Even Prince Charles has spoken about the need for action, now and not later. “I am firmly of the view that the next 18 months will decide our ability to keep climate change to survivable levels and to restore nature to the equilibrium we need for our survival,” he said, speaking at a reception for Commonwealth foreign ministers recently.
Why the next 18 months? A series of critical UN meetings about climate issues are due to take place between now and the end of 2020. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global emissions of carbon dioxide must peak by 2020 to keep the planet below the 1.5C survival threshold.
But a number of countries including the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia blocked the IPCC special report on 1.5C from UN talks. And ongoing political turmoil in the U.S., Britain (particularly with Brexit), and around the world means that governments “might not have the bandwidth to unpick the multiple global challenges that climate change presents,” according to the BBC.
So, how do we act in order to prevent global climate catastrophe? How can we save the planet? First, we must use our political strength to vote for congresspeople, senators, MPs, and presidents or prime ministers who understand the dire importance of taking action to cut carbon dioxide emissions right now.
And then we can follow the example of Swedish school striker Greta Thunberg, who is raising awareness of the urgency of action on climate change by refusing to go to school until Sweden’s general election on September 9.
Use your voice. Use your vote. Use your hands and your labor. Write your politicians. Write letters to the editor, blog posts, op-ed columns. March. Do whatever you can, because if we’re going to save the planet, we’ve got less than two years to do it.
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